'Death-mines': Three Moroccan workers suffocated to death in coal mining well
Tragedies related to Moroccan wells persist with news of the death of three coal mine workers inside a coal mining well on Tuesday after multiple unsuccessful rescue attempts.
"Three people died of suffocation with carbon dioxide, on Tuesday, inside a coal mining well exploited by one of the legally established cooperatives," an official told AFP.
The coal well is situated in a forest region in the Laouinat commune, Jerada province, located in the Oriental region of northeastern Morocco, according to officials.
In their statement, local authorities said they immediately dispatched a team of rescuers to the scene as soon as they were informed of the incident.
Aged 52, 44 and 43, the three trapped victims were found motionless in the well.
Authorities said a probe has been opened into the incident.
Jerada province is an impoverished area where most men work in the mining industry, risking their lives daily in reportedly poor and dangerous conditions amid the lack of other job opportunities.
In 2017, four young miners died in Jerada after being trapped in the shaft of an abandoned coal mine.
The 2017 incident sparked a series of protests that extended until the spring of 2018.
The inhabitants, mostly coal workers' families, protested the state's marginalisation and called for social equity and serious reforms to revive the region's economy.
Moroccan authorities reacted furiously to the Jerada uprising, which started a few months after the Hirak Rif movement, another series of protests in another "marginalised area in Eastern Morocco."
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Moroccan authorities stormed Jerada protesters' houses, arrested dozens of coal miners, and "recklessly drove a police van" into at least one minor protester.
Called "Silicosis Valley", because of the large number of residents affected by the lung disease, Jerrada was once the nerve centre of The Morocco Coal Mine, which enrolled more than 9,000 people.
After its closure two-decade-ago due to its high operating costs, unemployment skyrocketed in the region with no alternative job opportunities available.
Today, Jerada miners continue to risk their lives in the unsafe, deserted so-called "death mines" to extract coal by hand. Locals say they sell it for 600-700 dirhams (US$65-US$75) a ton to companies that resell it for about twice as much.