In its fact-finding report titled Beneath the surface: Rights violations in Balochistan’s coal mines, launched in Quetta on Thursday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has underscored the alarming frequency of mining-related deaths and injuries in the region.
Based on field visits and consultations with coalminers, labour unions and government departments, the report recommends that the number of trained government safety inspectors and the frequency of their inspections be increased to maintain safety standards and reduce the number of mining accidents.
Mine owners and contractors must also ensure a functioning ambulance service with onsite emergency health workers and regular internal safety inspections at every mining site.
Mining tunnels must be constructed in accordance with the law, and kept well ventilated to allow both the entry of clean air and to avoid methane build-ups. It is imperative that the federal government ratify ILO Convention C-176 so that such minimum standards of occupational safety and health are determined and implemented.
Coal miners must further be registered and made eligible for EOBI social security and Workers’ Welfare Fund benefits. The disparity in the treatment of migrant mine workers must be addressed as well by registering them so that they are not underpaid or denied access to healthcare and civic rights.
HRCP urges the government to upgrade the status of the coal mining sector to an industry so that mine owners and contractors who fail to maintain adequate safety standards can be held accountable under the Mines Act 1923.
The government must also pay closer attention to technological advancements in mining to give mine operators and owners incentive to upgrade from archaic and dangerous methods of mining.