An accident at an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya killed one person and left another battling for his life.
Police said the incident happened in the Shallang area of West Khasi Hills district on Thursday night. The cause of the mishap was not immediately known.
“According to the preliminary report I have received from the team sent to the remote area, the body of one person was recovered while the injured was rescued,” the district’s Superintendent of Police, Herbert G. Lyngdoh said.
The two persons, who were trapped in the coal mine, were identified as Lependro Sangma, 34, and Hendid Momin, 33, both from Uguri village. Sangma died on the spot, police said.
Anti-coal mining activist Agnes Kharshiing, who survived a near-fatal attack by the henchmen of some coal barons in 2018, said the incident has once again exposed the State government’s claim that there is no illegal rathole coal mining in Meghalaya.
“Can the State government now deny there is no illegal coal mining?” she asked.
The National Green Tribunal had banned the hazardous rathole coal mining in April 2014. The Supreme Court also imposed restrictions later on, allowing only the coal extracted till the ban came into effect to be transported.
But coal mining has continued illegally allegedly because several politicians and officials are either owners of the mines or are involved in the illegal coal trade. Consequently, accidents in the unregulated mines have claimed at least 30 lives in the last five years.
In March, the High Court of Meghalaya had directed the Conrad K. Sangma government to set up a committee “without any political interference” to implement the ban on rathole coal mining.
The High Court had directed the government to dispose of the previously-mined coal and ensure that there is no fresh mining. But coal is still being extracted and allegedly passed off as previously-mined coal.
Assigning a probe by retired judge B.P. Katakey, the high court also cited allegations that coal continues to be illegally mined in Meghalaya.