The death ratio of miners in Pakistan and particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is on constant hike as KP provincial government, mine owners and contractors have failed to provide basic facilities and infrastructure in mining areas.
Mining is a dangerous job where the workers normally works hundreds of feet under the earth in dangerous conditions. In developed world, facilities are provided near mining area in order to meet any untoward sit. However, in countries like Pakistan, due to various reason including negligence, basic facilities and rights are denied to miners.
According to Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, every year, 100 to 200 labourers on average die in mine accidents. There are on-job risks in mining that includes accidents like cave-ins, floods, gas explosions and chemical leakage. Health risks also increase manifold due to dust, vaporised molten metal and mercury which miners normally inhale. However, no facilities or protective equipment is provided to protect miners from long term hazards and accidents.
According to an unofficial data, there are over 100,000 mine workers working in different parts of the country who are normally paid Rs 13000 per month. The amount is very less as compared to the magnitude of danger and the hard work involved in mining. A large number of miners hails from the poorest district of KP i.e Shangla in upper Swat.
In April 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had directed all the provinces to get the data of all miners and provide Rs 500,000 in cash to the families of those who have lost their lives while mining. The apex court had also ordered the provinces to provide free education for mine workers’ children and also ensure proper training to the miners in order to better equip them for the job.
However, the KP government is yet to devise any policy for the rights of miners or introduce any law for protection of miners. Lack of any legislation or mining law is one of the major reason that miners are exploited by the mine owners and contractors.
While commenting on the matter Habib Shah a local journalist from South Waziristan working on the labour rights said that the lack of facilities for the miners is a grave negligence of the provincial government despite the fact that due to mining KP is generating a huge amount of revenue as tons of mines are extracted on daily basis.
He revealed that besides, the low wage and no protection facilities, the miners in KP and particularly in tribal districts are yet to get any separate hospital or a dispensary for their treatment.
He further stated that the explosion within mines are unavoidable, however, rescue operations for taking out the stranded must be streamlined by government as many more lives are lost due to delay in rescue operations.
It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan has four national level laws related to health, safety and welfare of workers engaged in mining and quarrying, specifically: the Mines Act 1923, Mines Maternity Benefits Act 1941, Coal Mines (Fixation of Rates and Wages) Ordinance 1960, and the Excise Duty on Mineral (Labour) Welfare Act 1967. But still the government has failed to protect this most important segment of society by providing them with basic possible facilities.
The provincial government needs to amend the existing laws as per modern requirements and develop a mechanism to ensure its full implementation. The government also needs to register all the mines in province while also registering the workers with social security department. It is the responsibility of the government to protect the workers from exploitation, bonded labour and protect their rights.