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HRCP demands better enforcement of safety protocols for coal miners

Peshawar: A fact-finding mission led by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has determined that the deaths of three coal miners at Darra Adam Khel, Kohat, on 20 October 2023 was due to persistent neglect of occupational safety standards and protocols.

According to a statement on Tuesday, the mission visited the mine where the incident had taken place, and another mine in the same district that had no reported history of mining accidents.

They also met with coal mine workers, the president of the coal miners’ labour union, local doctors and the chief inspector of the provincial minerals development department. The workers interviewed were not wearing the safety gear necessary to protect them from mining hazards; moreover, they lacked awareness of standard mining safety practices. Unfortunately, this negligence extended to poor recordkeeping of accident reports as well as inadequate healthcare access—the nearest hospital is critically under-resourced, and located at such a distance from the mines that patients’ conditions frequently worsen before they arrive for treatment.

The mission underscored that the rules and protocols stipulated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mines Safety, Inspection and Regulation Act 2019 were not adequately applied at the mines visited. They recommended reforming the law to make it compatible with the structure of mine management, and closely recording all mining practices to ensure that protocols are followed and well-documented.

Moreover, the government must ensure that every coal mine worker is formally registered, contracted and trained, with decent pay and working conditions to improve their wellbeing and safety. Finally, Pakistan must ratify ILO Convention C176 to ensure the safety and health of mine workers. The coal mining industry must have strictly regulated and enforced safety practices to uphold the labour rights of coal miners.