Five miners were killed, and also another left seriously hurt in an explosion on May 10 at a Chinese coal mine in the Ta Oy district of Saravane province in southern Laos, sources told RFA on Thursday.
Two of those killed in the blast were Lao, with the other three and the wounded worker all Chinese, a district official informed RFA’s Lao Service, adding that initial reports had claimed only four were killed.
“In a later report, we learned that five people had actually been killed,” the officials stated, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We are still investigating the incident; however, we have no further details yet.”
The men that were killed had been trapped when rocks fell on them after the blast, another Ta Oy official said, citing accounts by witnesses to the explosion.
The miner wounded in the blast was sent to a local health center for treatment, Ta Oy district governor Boun Neuang Luang Kham Tai told a Lao radio station in a meeting later on that day, adding that the bodies of the dead Chinese miners were taken to managers at the coal mine for handling.“We could not talk about more than this due to the language barrier between the injured man and us as well as the company officials,” he stated.
The bodies of the Lao miners who were killed were returned to their families so that religious ceremonies can be held for them, and Lao authorities are investigating the cause of the accident so that compensation can be claimed from the Chinese firm, he said.
Stronger safety precautions required.
A district villager who witnessed the incident told RFA that he wants the coal mine now to enforce stronger measures so as to protect the safety and lives of its employees and also to give fair compensation to the families of the deceased.
“If they are going to blast rocks, they should warn people to move far away from the locations of the blast,” he stated. “What took place, in this case, should serve as a warning for everybody to learn.”
The Chinese firm involved in the blast had been operating in Ta Oy since 2012, although the length of time they have actually held a concession from the Lao government to work there is still unclear, one district official told RFA.
“The company has hired several workers to dig coal and also transport rocks by truck, and the majority of the tasks assigned to these men are very dangerous,” he stated.
The Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment reported on Jan. 15 that 2,607 Lao workers out of a total workforce of around 27,000 are employed by foreign firms now invested in 12 special economic zones across the nation.
According to Ministry figures, a lot of workers are Chinese, making up about 20,000 of the total, with Vietnamese employees numbering about 3,500.
Chinese-owned industrial, hydropower, tourism, and mining projects in Laos have actually caused friction with local residents over pollution, loss of farmland, and economic compensation for displaced villagers, sources told RFA in earlier reports.