Future of 87 employees of Lakhra Coal Development Company hangs in balance

Human Rights

Employees have not been paid salaries since last six months, as the PMDC has virtually disowned LCDC employees

The coal-fired power plant was shut by WAPDA in 2017 and the LCDC was non-functional since mid of 2019

Sindh govt. had cancelled lease of mining area and formed its own company as a result of devolution under 18th Amendment  

Karachi: The future of 87 employees of Lakhra Coal Development Company (LCDC) is at stake owing to a dispute between Sindh government and the Centre over the lease of coalmines’ land, which the provincial government had cancelled in July 2019 after the LCDC stopped functioning in May same year due to ill-conceived policies of federal authorities.

The LCDC is virtually non-functional for over a year while all its employees are awaiting their salaries since last six months.

The LCDC was incorporated as a Public Limited Company on 6th February, 1990 under Companies Ordinance, 1984, and had been functioning as a Joint Venture of Pakistan Mineral Development corporation (PMDC), Government of Sindh and Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA) with a share of 50:25:25 respectively for coal-mining and establishing a coal-fired power plant.

Due to the negligence of the WAPDA, the country’s first coal-fired power plant became non-functional since July 2017.

If proper overhauling of the plant had been carried out, the power plant as well as the LCDC would have continued its function. The plant run by WAPDA is closed, while the Sindh government, which owns the coalfield land, soon after cancelling the lease, formed ‘Sindh Lakhra Coal-Mining Company (SLCMC) last year and has started extracting coal, the employees of LCDC told Sindh Courier.

The sources told Sindh Courier that newly established SLCMC authorities had offered the LCDC employees to join the new company but they refused on the instigation of PMDC authorities and later they betrayed the employees and stopped their salaries.

Playing in the hands of central government authorities, the LCDC employees had also been protesting against the Sindh government’s decision of canceling the coalfield lease.

The LCDC employees, including mining engineers, managers, geologists, mine Sardars and administrative staff, who later realized the hidden game played by the federal authorities, have been running from pillar to post and appealing to the provincial as well as the federal authorities to save their future and release their salaries but to no avail.

The LCDC office is located in a bungalow and even its rent has not been paid, and because of which the owner might threaten to vacate the building.

Over the past 30 years, the LCDC developed 120 mines and installed their infrastructure, which now is said to have been occupied by the Sindh government, being its property as per law.

A senior official working in LCDC, who requested anonymity, said that he, along with other employees, were hired as permanent employees entitled with all government benefits, perks and privileges, but no one from the federal or provincial government had stepped forward to assure the future of their jobs ever since the plant has been shut down.

A few of the LCDC employees were trained by the National Institute of Management and the government had invested huge sums in their training.

Spread over 16,000 acres, the 120 Lakhra mines used to extract around 700 to 800 tons of coal on a daily basis.

Addressing media professionals a few months ago, Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh had said that his department had cancelled the LCDC lease because the company had been involved in the misuse of coal.

“The actual purpose of Lakhra Coalfield was to supply coal to the power plant, but the LCDC started selling it in the open market. After the 18th Amendment, the provincial governments have become autonomous, so we have launched our own coal company with the aim to extract coal for power generation,” he had said.

“The LCDC and the PMDC have taken the matter to court to challenge the decision of the Sindh government but they failed as the court gave its judgment in our favor. We are now hiring people to run the company,” he said.

About the future of LCDC employees, he had said that the provincial government is considering accommodating them in Sindh Lakhra Coal-Mining Company, however, so far no practical step has been taken and the future of 87 LCDC employees hangs in balance.

The Lakhra Coalfield is located about 70 km north-west of Hyderabad city running along the right bank of river Indus and 200 km North-East of Karachi on Indus Highway.

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