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NGT seeks report on Meghalaya coal mine mishap, 13 miners still trapped

Rescuers work at the site of a coal mine that collapsed in Ksan, in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.

Rescuers work at the site of a coal mine that collapsed in Ksan, in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Saturday has sought a report from the Meghalaya government on the December 13 coal mine mishap in the State’s East Jaintia Hills, as the operation to rescue 13 trapped miners was called off for the second successive day.

Officials said the chances of the survival of the miners in the 370 ft. coal pit, which was filled with water after they drilled into an adjoining abandoned mine, were slim.

“The incident involving illegal coal mining is very tragic. I have sought a report from the district’s Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police on all aspects of the accident. This will form part of the interim report to be submitted to the NGT by this month,” B.P. Katoki, a retired judge heading an NGT-appointed judicial panel, said .

The panel was formed on August 31 to deal with issues related to the protection of the environment from illegal mining and protection of miners.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma had on Friday admitted that illegal coal mining was continuing in the State despite an NGT ban on ‘rat-hole’ mining more than four years ago. His coalition government wants the ban withdrawn as it is “affecting the livelihood of thousands of people”.

On of two owners arrested

The mine is near Lumthari village, about 130 km from State capital Shillong and less than 50 km from where anti-mining activists Agnes Kharshiing and Amita Sangma were assaulted by a mob a month ago.

Villagers came to know about the accident after five miners somehow managed to escape as water gushed into the pit with 13 miners caught deeper inside.

“Water keeps flooding the pit every time it is extracted with the help of machines. We fear the worst for the miners,” a member of the National Disaster Response Force engaged in the rescue operation, said. A 23-member State Disaster Response team is assisting the 72-member NDRF team.

East Jaintia Hills SP Sylvester Nongtynger said they have arrested Grip Suhlet, one of the two owners of the coal mine. The other owner, James Sukhlain of Lumthari village, was absconding along with the supervisor of the mine.

A senior police officer, declining to be quoted, denied that the police have been turning a blind eye to illegal coal mining even after the NGT ban. “Almost 80% of the district is covered by privately-owned coal and limestone mines. It is difficult to keep track of what’s happening under all of them,” he said.

In a videotaped statement on Friday, Mr. Sangma said illegal coal mining was unacceptable to the State government, in a departure from his earlier stand that there was no illegal mining since the NGT ban on April 17, 2014.

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Printable version | Oct 4, 2022 5:16:25 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ngt-seeks-report-on-meghalaya-coal-mine-mishap-13-miners-still-trapped/article25752747.ece