Prisoners Abandoned in a Collapsing Mine

Prisoners who work in the mines in the life imprisonment settlements often die from all sorts of accidents. The facilities and tools are primitive and there are few safety provisions for the prisoners. The mines; gangways are usually so narrow that the prisoners are often forced to lie on their backs to dig coal. Men and women work in equal numbers in the mines.

In May 1993, there was a fire in the gangway of a mine at Settlement No.22. The security officers blasted the gangway entrance with dynamite to contain the fire. Some 50 prisoners were abandoned inside and left to die.

In the mines, work continues for 24 hours in three shifts. The ventilation in the gangway and safety control are so poor that many prisoners die or are injured every day. Because the prisoners are too short for the trolleys, they have to climb up the trolley to dump the coal inside. Oftentimes, they are so weak that they all into the trolleys with the coal and get killed. The mines are in such fragile condition that it is like a time bomb waiting to explode at any minute. Still, several thousands of prisoners are forced to enter into the gangway not knowing when it may collapse or explode. Everyday, prisoners are killed by fires or security officers.

An average of 40,000 tons of coal are produced by the prisoners each year. The coal is then used to generate power for electrifying settlement fences and producing bullets. When I was on duty at Settlement No.13 and No.22, several hundred prisoners died from mine collapses each year. If there was a fire in the gangway, the security officers would immediately blast the gangway entry to prevent the fire from spreading, with no regard for the human lives inside.