Many mines and oil installations have been modernised and have become safe workplaces, where machines now perform the most hazardous tasks. In many countries, however, mines remain the deadliest type of workplace, where collapses, landslides, drowning, and pulmonary illnesses claim thousands of miners’ lives every year. In many cases, informal/small-scale mines represent the most dangerous form of mining because protection and safety equipment are usually non-existent. Trade unions are seldom represented at small-scale and informal mines. Dialogue with workers associations here is often non-existent, which even further increases the vulnerability of the miners and their lack of influence over their working conditions.
The extractive industries are overwhelmingly male-dominated workplaces. Women who work in mining and extraction can be particularly vulnerable, especially for sexual abuse.
Miners in front of the entrance to a cassiterite mine in Congo Kinshasa. There is a severe risk of collapse at these types of mine, which typically have narrow and deep shafts. Photo: Jeppe Schilder.
Frequent fatalities in the hunt for jade in Myanmar
In the state of Kachin in northern Myanmar, the extraction of jade is being conducted at breakneck speed. In the past two decades, jade mining activities have transformed forests and mountains into enormous craters. Thousands of people have lost their livelihoods and land due to jade mining and hundreds of people die every year in landslides caused by mining activity. Local people are also affected by fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army. Since 2011, more than 100,000 people have been forced to flee due to the conflict. Jade mining, considered to be highly corrupt, is believed to have strong linkages to the conflict with both warring parties receiving funding from it.
Thousands of men and boys search for the gemstone jade by sifting through earth from mines that is dumped by trucks. Many people die in falls, are runover by trucks or die in landslides, particularly during the monsoon period when the ground becomes looser. In 2015, 114 jade hunters died in a landslide at a dumping area.
“Our work’s dangerous. I’ve seen rocks fall on the heads of many miners. Some die, because they pass out when rocks hit them, and then they’re covered in more rocks as people continue to dig around them. There’s often an aggressive atmosphere when everyone scrabbles through fresh piles of slag that are dumped,” a worker tells Aljazeera News.
Read more in Swedwatch’s report: Overlooked and undermined.