There is a dark side to the face of coal mining in Pakistan, in the form of the thousands of workers who risk their lives working in highly toxic and hazardous conditions. Behind this exemplary development is the sacrifice of the health, and lives of miners who continue to work in illegal conditions.

Reported deaths of miners and labourers are nothing new, and have seen a spike recently. A Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation-owned mine in the Sur-range coal mine field, 60 kilometres east of Quetta, was hit by a mudslide. Reports indicate that there were seven workers inside the mine when the incident took place. In a separate incident a gas explosion and mudslide struck coal mines in the Marwar area, killing 16 workers.

The loss of lives of workers and coal miners is a habitual occurrence, and has been shrugged off by the authorities. According to the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (PCMLF), the average causality rate of labourers in coalmine accidents per year ranges between 100 and 200, making it one of the most dangerous professions. The workers work in extremely toxic and hazardous conditions, with little protective gear provided to them by the government and weak safety and rescue regulations in case an accident does occur.

Everybody may be ignoring the plight of coal miners but these recent incidents in Quetta have propelled PCMLF to vow never again. The federation held a demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club today demanding responsibility for the incident to be fixed.

Pakistan has a strong internal labour law, and is a signatory to many of IPO’s treaties. By not providing proper safety conditions and protection to these workers, it is violating its own labour laws. Successful coal mining may bring the country progress, but it should be remembered this progress is built on the backs of labourers working in toxic conditions.