In another instance of illegal rat-hole mining in Meghalaya, two people were killed, and their bodies were recovered from the mine in Jalyiah village in the East Jaintia Hills. The officials suspect that the miners died when the boulders hit them. Three more, locals said, are trapped in another rat-hole mine nearby, reported The Hindu.
The search was conducted by the police after Philip Bareh filed an FIR at the Khliehriat station, stating that his nephew Elad Bareh was missing since Friday. Elad’s body was found in front of the rat-hole coal mine. Senior police officer Sylvester Nongtnger said, “When we further checked inside the narrow mine, another body was found. The second man was identified as Monoj Basumatry,” as reported. Efforts to find the owner of the quarry are underway.
Unlike rat-hole mining that digs a vertical pit, a side-cutting mine involves digging narrow tunnels on the slopes of a hill until the miners strike the coal seam.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had put a ban on coal mining in the state in 2014. However, recent tragedies haves brought out the inability of the state government to implement the ban, and the impudence of the mining mafia.
On January 4, the NGT levied a fine of Rs 100 crore on the state government for failing to curb illegal coal mining following which the police have been conducting several raids since Saturday.
The Khliehriat police caught and detained a few miners, and registered cases against the mine owners, many of whom were absconding.
The incident comes amid a face-saving rescue attempt at the Ksan village in the same district, where for the last 26 days, authorities have failed to reach the 15 trapped miners in a flooded coal mine. The current water level in the main shaft is about 160 feet, while its total depth is around 370 feet.
"Two pumps from Kirloskar Brothers and the submersible pump from Coal India encountered glitches and the dewatering process in the main shaft was affected," R Susngi, spokesperson of the operation, told PTI on Sunday. Three more pumps by the CIL will be put in use on Monday, Susngi added.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had been sent to assist the state in evacuation of the 15 miners on December 27, 2018. After diving inside the main shaft, no bodies could be found. However, the divers reported a foul smell suggesting presence of decomposed bodies. All current efforts seem to be too little, too late. One can only hope for any of the miners to be alive, while attempts at recovering their bodies are still underway.
Former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma lashed out at Chief Secretary Y Tsering and other senior government officials for being silent spectators to illegal mining. Sangma further told journalists on Sunday, "They are succumbing to their political bosses, though it is their job to protect the interest of the people and the state” as told to The Shillong Times.”