By Jubin Katiraie
The outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran, in addition to its social consequences, has specific economic consequences, and workers at certain businesses, including miners, are at high risk.
According to the state-run Mehr News Agency, in Mazandaran province, there are more than 250 mineral units registered in this province, of which more than 140 mines are active even under the circumstances of the spread of the coronavirus and more than 4,000 miners are still working.
In the fields of mineral storage of the fluorine, ornamental stones, coal and sand, Mazandaran province ranks first, second, third and fourth in the country, respectively, and currently, 3,868 miners are working in the province’s mines.
Work in the mines is one of the most productive jobs in which the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak is evident and working conditions in these production units require health considerations so as not to endanger workers’ lives. But reports from miners across the province, especially underground mines, indicate that most managers of the mines have not created the right environment for workers. The Mazandaran Industrial, Mining and Trade Organization is also indifferent to the matter.
Underground mines, especially the “coal mines” of Mazandaran province, are not in a good position to stay safe from the risk of coronavirus due to the working environment. The mining environment is a closed environment where the absence of air conditioning, as a high-risk factor, can easily transmit the coronavirus to all parts of the mine.
Also, the use of toilets, bathrooms, lounges, shared properties and tools, unwanted gatherings due to the nature of the mine work, failure to observe at least one-meter distance between the workers, are things that put miners’ health at serious risk of coronavirus.
The very high stress of underground miners, in fear of being infected by the coronavirus at work, has increased the possibility of work accidents. While all hospitals are involved with the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, it is very difficult for the hospitals for possible relief and medical measures for the injured workers and to respond to any accidents as soon as possible.
So far, no action has been taken by the miners’ owners or government agencies to prevent the transmission of coronavirus among the miners and the mine managers have not taken this matter seriously. The mine managers are only looking for their own profit at the expense of the life of the workers.
Mineworkers in Mazandaran province, as well as technical experts, are deeply concerned and are trying to share their concerns with the authorities in these critical situations. But so far, they have not received any response.
Working in hazardous conditions in coal mines
“Unfortunately, the conditions of underground mines, especially coal, which includes many workers, are not in good shape at all, and the stress caused by the coronavirus virus is very high. We fear that this work stress will lead to unpleasant accidents.
“In the event of an accident, while the health care centers across the province are all involved with the coronavirus, certainly, it would not be desirable to handle the accident. It is also possible that the accident victims of the mines also get the virus due to their presence in these medical centers” said a miner.
Government’s disregard for expert warnings
Seyed Mojtaba Mortazavi, head of the Mazandaran Mine Engineering Organization, said, “The environmental and operating conditions of coal mines are very worrying for workers to get infected with the coronavirus and so far no serious action has been taken on these mines.”
He added: “We are seriously concerned about the health of the miners, depending on the information we have about the status of the underground mines. These mines should be temporarily closed as soon as possible.”
According to Mehr News Agency, ”When the specialized agencies that their remarks are expertise and are reporting on the serious health status of the mines, any incident on the miners’ because of the infection with the coronavirus is directed at government officials who are indifferent to the condition of these workers.” (Mehr, 28 March 2020)
The question is why, in such circumstances, does the regime not use the existing capital and amenities, such as the huge capital of Astan Quds conglomerate, the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), or the billions of dollars of Khatam-al-Anbia base’s capital, and many more of its organizations of the regime to confront the coronavirus? Why are they not shutting down the dangerous and risky work of the miners?