Four miners have recently been killed and six others injured due to a gas explosion inside a coal mine in Shahrag town in Sibbi district of Balochistan. There were 12 miners working in the mine when the explosion occurred. More workers were still feared trapped inside the mine. Explosions due to gas accumulation are said to be a common occurrence in coal mines in the region. This raises questions about safety issues. Canary birds and other preventive measures are usually provided inside mines to have warning signs of gas accumulation so that workers can exit safely before increasing gas accumulation causes an explosion.
In the present case, the official version says the explosion occurred abruptly. There are a sizable number of coal mines in Balochistan. There are no suitable medical facilities available in mining towns to treat injured miners. Moreover, the mines office has reportedly remained closed for the past several years. The Pakistan Central Labour Federation claims that on an average 200 workers are killed in mining accidents every year in the country. This situation shows the absence of proper safety measures for miners. Those working both inside and outside of mines are vulnerable to accidents that lead to loss of life and limbs. These are occupational hazards though, this does not distract from safety issues.
Last year several workers died in mining accidents in the country. In December 2020, six workers were killed; in February, four miners, three of them brothers, perished when part of a mine collapsed; in May, three workers died in a mining accident; and seven miners were killed in another accident. Mining accidents usually occur due to accumulation of gas and underground water inside mines. Reports from different parts of the world attribute such mishaps to the lack of proper safety measures. Media has to play an important part in highlighting mining accidents but so far it has only been disappointing. Happy are those who work inside secure mines.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2021.