Pakistan: Widespread child labour, appalling working conditions & debt bondage reported at Balochistan mines

Author: Shah Meer Baloch & Hannah Ellis-Petersen, The Guardian, Published on: 20 February 2020

“‘Coal workers are orphans’: the children and slaves mining Pakistan’s coal”, 19 February 2020

[U]nderground explosions, methane gas poisoning, suffocation,…collaps[es] are omnipresent [in the coal mines of Balochistan]. [Coal] has grown into a massive modern industry [w]ith five major coalfields – Mach, Shahrag, Dukki, Chamalang and Quetta. At all the coal mines visited by The Guardian in January, child labourers were seen working above ground, [including]...removing impurities from…mined coal. There have [also] been…reports of child sexual abuse at the mines in Shahrag…

[Workers talk of]… an absence of basic health and safety measures and brutal working and living conditions. Many of the conditions of modern slavery are evident across these mines. [Pakistani law]…stipulates that canteens, shelters, medical equipment and first aid rooms should be provided at every mine where more than 100 people are employed. At Mach, the workers’ quarters were a mud building in which more than 10 people shared each tiny room,…no electricity, running water,…proper bathroom[s]…or drinking water.

The Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, [says] between 100 and 200 labourers die on average in coal mine accidents every year,…four miners dying in a landslide at Duki… in February. Workers [also suffer from]...black lung disease. [The] law [grants]...the families of workers who died in the mines...compensation [b]ut only [Pakistani workers] are entitled,...leaving the Afghan miners, who make up around 50% of the workforce, unprotected. Debt bondage is also [prevalent].

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