Minerals and mineral products are the backbone of most industries and some form of mining or quarrying (sometimes also in the form of small-scale artisanal mining) is carried out in nearly every country in the world. It has important economic, environmental, labour and social effects in the countries or regions where it is carried out, and beyond. For many developing countries mining accounts for a significant proportion of GDP and, often, for the bulk of foreign exchange earnings and foreign investment.
To outsiders, the preoccupation of miners with their safety and health might seem obsessive. But where else do workers face a constantly changing combination of workplace circumstances, both daily and throughout their work shift? In what other occupation, is work carried out in an atmosphere without natural light or ventilation, with the need to ensure that no immediate reaction results from surrounding strata? Despite considerable efforts in many countries, the toll of death, injury and disease among the world's mineworkers means that, in most countries, mining remains the most hazardous occupation when the number of people exposed to risk is taken into account.
The ILO has been dealing with labour and social problems of the mining industry since its early days, making considerable efforts to improve work and life of miners - from the adoption of the Hours of Work (Coal Mines) Convention (No. 31) in 1931 to the Safety and Health in Mines Convention (No. 176), which was adopted in 1995.
In order to assist in the practical implementation of Convention No.176, the international standard for OSH in mining, ILO has developed codes of practice that provide guidance on how to conduct safe mining operations and tools, such as the ILO's International Classification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses.