Explosives mean life in Chakwal, Jhelum districts

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LAHORE: Suspension of explosive supplies to mine owners of Chakwal and Jhelum districts of Punjab has affected livelihood of mine owners, workers and their families.

Following the National Action Plan structured to abolish terrorism from the country after December 16, 2014 Peshawar attack on Army Public School that killed 134 school children, the government suspended explosive supplies to owners of mine and magazines, a necessary ingredient for mining, so that the terrorists may not use it.

The government issues licenses to mine owners and magazine owners for using explosives for mining activity and a license holder mine owner can use 25 kg explosive in 90 days under the Punjab Explosives Act 1884.

A mineworker Muhammad Arshad during a telephonic interview with News Lens Pakistan said, “I used to earn a decent livelihood by working 10-12 hours in a salt mine but now I am jobless since the mining activity has been suspended for the last two months.  My family is starving.”  He further added, “I can’t afford to remain jobless for a longer period and the government should look into the matter.”

A mineworker at Gypsum mine Abdul Razzaq said he was shocked when his owner announced two months back that he should not come to mine for work. “My owners announcement about discontinuing my service came like a bomb shell since job in the mine was my sole income source,” he said while talking to News Lens Pakistan

However, he said the mine owner convinced him that he should not find another job since mining activity will resume soon. “Now two months have passed but I have not heard from my owner to come to the mine and start my job again,” he added.

Talking to News Lens Pakistan Saeed Khattak, Pakistan Mines Workers President, said the poor mine workers are the worst victim of explosive suspension to mines. He said, “The authorities should understand the gravity of situation and appalling condition of workers who are literally starving.”

However, he said mine owners and magazine owners should show sense of responsibility and take effective measures for safety and security of explosives being supplied to them by the government. “Explosive are not vegetables like tomatoes which are openly sold by magazine owners.  The mine workers owners should take responsibility and take concrete steps in this regard.”

He further said, “Workers are not opting for protest right now and are working on permanent solution of the issue by joining hands with owners for security and usage of the explosives.”

Haroon Ghani Cheema owner of Haroon Mine (Pvt) Ltd and Makah Salt Mine in Chakwal District said, “All security measures are being taken for security of the explosives. I have set up my own magazines where barbed wires, cameras and hooters have been installed.”

“The vehicles on which explosives are laden have three locks and retired army commandoes have been hired for security. There is also a counter check on security,” he told News Lens Pakistan during a telephonic interview. Cheema hoped that the DCO would now renew his license and give him quota of explosives since 900 employees work in his mines.

Sardar Nadeem Hayat the Punjab chapter General Secretary of All Pakistan Mines Owners Association told News Lens Pakistan that about 30, 000 employees work in 4,000 mines of Chakwal and Jhelum districts. He said the mines of gypsum, salt, coal and limestone had been given to them on lease by the Punjab government.

He further said the explosive supplies to mine owners had been suspended by the provincial government since the explosives supplied for the mining purposes may be used in terror-related activities.

He admitted that quota of explosives fixed for mine owners was misused by some mine owners and magazine owners especially. A magazine is building where explosives are kept by the owners who later sell to mine owners according to limit of their license, he informed.

“Actually explosives quota did not fulfill the requirement of mine owners and some owners violated the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) that forced the government to suspend the supply,” he said.

However, Hayat said, “The government should enhance quota for mine owners so that they did not violate the SOP. The complete suspension of explosives to all mine owners is not the solution at all. This step is not only affecting people linked with mine-related business but also halting the country’s economic progress.”

He added that the punishment of mistakes made by magazine owners is being given to owners in the form of closure of their mines. He demanded that DCOs of Chakwal and Jhelum should renew their licenses for getting explosive quota that are renewed every year in the month of March and have not been renowned till yet this year.

“The government should evolve a comprehensive mechanism for monitoring of explosives and we will extend full cooperation in this regard,” he said, maintaining that the government should not force us to come on road like workers and owners did in case of Khushab and Sargodha districts for re-opening of our closed mines,” he further stated.

DCO Chakwal Sherry Naz said the government is fully aware of the issue and would resolve it as soon as magazine owners and mine owners take effective measures for proper usage and handling of the explosives. “Meetings are being held with all stakeholders and all mines will be re-opened soon once security of explosives is ensured. We can’t allow open sale of explosives in these circumstances,” he told News Lens Pakistan.

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