Editorial : Sorrange tragedy - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/22/sorrange-tragedy.html

THE blast at a coalmine in Sorrange near Que- tta on Sunday exposes the miserable conditions mine workers in Pakistan face. Several methane gas explosions caused the 4,000-foot-deep mine to collapse, trapping over 50 miners. By Monday, officials said 45 miners were confirmed dead while the hope of finding any survivors appeared to be slim. The blast was so powerful it blew off the roofs of nearby houses. The mine is owned by the state-run Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation but had been leased to a contractor. According to a report in this paper, the contractor had been warned two weeks ago by the chief inspector of mines to shut down the mine due to the excessive accumulation of methane. However, the warning was ignored. The result of the negligence was Sunday`s tragedy.
While miners across the globe work in hazardous conditions, the predicament of mine workers in this country is particularly acute. Mine safety in Pakistan is very poor and several deaths are reported every year. Workers use obsolete equipment and there are hardly any safety protocols in place. Observers say that in mineral-rich Balochistan mine accidents in which one or two workers die are routine; it is only when the death toll is higher that the accidents make news. According to one figure, over the last four years over 150 accidents have occurred in Balochistan`s mines. Nearly 170 workers are believed to have died in these mishaps. Crude methods are used to detect the level of gas in mines while the safety of workers is given least precedence by contractors and mine owners. The state needs to apply work-safety regulations to mines and ensure that operators are observing these. It must be ensured that miners have access to modern tools and equipment while workers should be made familiar with the safety protocols to follow in case of an emergency. Contractors and mine owners who fail to follow safeguards and continue to put the lives of workers at risk for the sake of profits should also be brought to justice.

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