According to reports, the men were working hundreds of metres underground at a mine in the Chamalang coal mining range when the explosion took place. Miners had to retrieve the bodies of their colleagues themselves.
All the victims of Wednesday’s blast, two of whom were brothers, were members of the same family from neighbouring Afghanistan.
The tragedy struck just days after three more coal miners perished in the same area when a mine collapsed as they were working deep underground on 27 December 2018. A further miner was injured and rescued from the scene by co-workers.
The latest casualties came just two days after a New Year’s Eve rally by IndustriALL affiliates demanding better safety in Pakistan’s mines after 120 coal miners died last year alone.
The Pakistan Central Mine Labour Federation and All Pakistan Labour Federation staged a rally and protest outside the Quetta Press Club carrying placards and banners inscribed with various demands on 31 December.
“In 2018 various incidents were reported in Chamalang, Shahrag, Harnai, Marwar, Sur Inj and Digari which left 120 mine workers martyred and hundreds injured, which has increased the sense of insecurity among poor mine workers,” said the unions in a statement.
Mine workers’ union leaders addressed the protesters attacking the government’s woeful negligence towards the safety of mine workers, while also holding local contractors responsible for mining incidents.
“Despite consecutive fatal mining incidents not a single mine’s license was cancelled or any action was taken,” they said and demanded government attention to the issue of coal mining safety.
IndustriALL is calling on the government of Pakistan to urgently ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention 176 on safety and health in mines to improve conditions in the country’s deadly mines. IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan, said:
“We say enough is enough. How many more miners need to die before safety is improved? The government must take action now and we are ready to offer our help and expertise to avoid more lives being sacrificed in the Pakistani coal industry.”