Last week, five miners died http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/14/five-die-in-mastung-coal-mine-explosion.html ] after an underground explosion at a coalmine in the Zarkhu area of Balochistan’s Mastung District, some 50km south of Quetta.
It was a methane gas explosion, there were many workers about 500m below the surface when the explosion occurred and a fire broke out, preventing escape.
Such accidents are not uncommon. In March this year at least 43 miners were killed following a series of explosions [ http://www.newslinemagazine.com/2011/04/life-in-the-pits/ ] at a coalmine at Sorang near Quetta.
Like most miners in Balochistan, according to a 2010 study http://afpakwatch.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/conditions-of-mine-workers-in-pakistan/ ], the victims were migrant workers from KP. Many come from Shangla District, driven by “immense poverty” to work in mines outside their home areas.
Miners in Pakistan are working in the most horrendous working conditions. They have virtually no safety equipment and safety measures are never taken care of by the bosses of the mines which are mainly in private hands.
Of a total employed workforce of 51.88 million in the country, 50,000 work in the mining sector.
Working conditions of mine workers, particularly [in] coal mines, are poor. The severe lack of safety measures in these mines causes widespread deaths. Equipment is obsolete by modern standards.
Balochistan, where most deaths occur, has some 2,300 mines. There are laws, rules and regulations governing the granting of mining concessions and prescribing safety procedures. However, these are archaic and, in any event, have been observed loosely at best for so long that violations of the law are the norm, not the exception. Additionally, the working conditions in the mines are medieval. Miners, like the ones that were killed in Sorang travel as far down as 6,000m with nothing but hard-hats with lights attached, and picks to chip away at the coal.
The air inside the mine is suffocating. We work up to 12 hours a day. Boys as young as 14 toil away too, and no one listens to us if we report a portion of a mine tunnel is crumbling, or that we cannot breathe well.