Balochistan’s coal miners must not be neglected any longer – Daily Notable
According to the sources of Daily Notable, A Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) fact-finding mission is gravely concerned to find that coalminers remain vulnerable to severe human rights violations. According to the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, at least 176 miners were killed and 180 injured in mining accidents in 2021. Miners in Balochistan face the additional risk of targeted attacks by non-state actors.
Based on the sample of mines the team visited, onsite healthcare is the exception rather than the norm. Given that coal mining is classified internationally as a hazardous occupation, mine owners and contractors must ensure that every mining site has a functioning ambulance service and onsite emergency health worker, and that regular internal safety inspections are carried out. With respect to external safety inspections, the fact that only 27 mine inspectors are available to oversee health and safety in over 6,000 mines in the province is also cause for concern.
The mission’s broad findings reveal that the majority of coalminers are not registered with the EOBI or other social security programmes. This implies that they are not eligible for employment benefits or pensions, leaving them highly vulnerable once they are no longer able to work. There are also concerns that the compensation for death and injury is lower in Balochistan (PKR 300,000) than in other provinces (PKR 500,000)—this must be rectified promptly.
Many labour union representatives also say they are deeply unhappy with the contractor system of operating coal mines because contractors have less stake in ensuring the safety and security of their workers and resort to cost-cutting measures. It is also a matter of concern that, in many cases, contractors themselves function as the heads of labour unions, which represents a potential conflict of interest.
HRCP also recommends that the government upgrade the status of the coal mining sector to an industry and hold mine owners as well as contractors accountable for running their sites in line with the provisions of the Mines Act 1923 and subsequent amendments.
The government must also ratify and implement ILO Convention 176 on safety and health in mines as soon as possible. We also urge the state to invest in health, education and infrastructure in and around coal mining areas specifically and across the province in general.
The mission’s detailed report will be released as soon as possible. – PUNA