Dang coal mines have become death trapsA worker’s death highlights the dangers of coal mines, where safety measures are flouted and inspection is non-existent.
Mohanlal Kami was crushed to death when a boulder collapsed on top of him while working in a coal mine at Ramche, Dang on Monday.
The 41-year-old from Tirsang of Ghorahi Sub Metropolitan City-19 was working nearly 160 metres underground at the time of the accident. His three friends who witnessed the accident could not rescue him.
Mohanlal had been working as a coal miner for the last 13 years.
His wife Shanti said it was desperation that drove her husband to work as a miner.
“My husband was working in the mine to earn a livelihood. The day before the incident he had been told that they found water in the tunnel. I had told him not to go but he did not listen,’ she said.
Tirsang is located on a geographically remote area between the border of Dang and Rolpa districts, 21 km north from the district headquarters.
The place is arid with little farming prospect. As a result most men in the village work in coal mines to support their families.
“There’s no other work available in the village. We don’t have irrigation facilities here to grow crops. So most of the people work at Ramche coal mine,” said Shanti.
There were 15 workers inside the mine on the day Mohanlal lost his life in the accident.
“We could not do anything to save him,” said Shovakar Sunar, Mohanlal’s friend and a fellow miner.
Harka Gharti, the ward chairman of Ghorahi-19, says Monday’s mine accident was a result of the company, Satya Sai Coal Industry, ignoring workers’ safety.
“There are no safety measures for workers. We have been requesting the company to manage helmets, boots and other safety equipment to the workers. But the company has not paid any heed,” he said. “After the incident we have asked the company not to resume work at the mine without adopting proper safety measures.”
Lumakanta Budhathoki, the in charge of Satya Sai Coal Industry, claimed that the company has adopted all safety measures and blamed the workers for not following them.
“It is the workers who do not adopt the safety measures that are already in place,” he said. “We have insured all miners and taken all possible measures for their safety.”
Satya Sai Coal Industry has agreed to provide Rs 500,000 to Mohanlal’s family as compensation.
Miners say despite the risky nature of their job, they are not paid well.
“A worker who digs a quintal of coal makes Rs 140. One can dig up to eight to 10 quintals a day. Other workers who carry coal make Rs 70 per quintal,” said Basanta BK, who works at another coal mining site at Tosa of Ghorahi Ward-19.
Coal is being excavated from 12 places at Ghorahi Sub Metropolitan City and Bangalachuli Rural Municipality in Dang.
At least five miners have died and four others have sustained serious injuries in the last 10 years.
Although coal excavation in the district began almost 25 years ago, these mines are not being inspected or monitored.
According to Mines and Minerals Rules, 1999, there should be appropriate safety measures to avoid any accident in a tunnel, well, and pits made in course of excavation of mines.
According to the government policy, the District Coordination Committee in the district should inspect the mines on a regular basis. The inspection team has the right to scrap licence, stop excavation or direct necessary guidelines for excavation if found the ongoing work against the rules and standard.
None of which has happened in Dang coal mines.
“We are preparing to carry out field inspections soon,” said Jitendra Man Nepali, chief at District Coordination Committee, when inquired about the situation of coal mines in the district.