Supreme Court seeks details from Meghalaya on illegal mines operating there
The Supreme Court on Friday expanded the scope of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the wake of the Meghalaya incident, in which 15 workers got trapped in an illegal coal mine, and sought details from the state government of such illegal operations there.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and S A Nazeer was hearing the PIL filed by advocate Aditya Prasad after 15 miners were trapped in a flooded mine in East Jaintia Hills district. The court also asked the central and state authorities to continue using 15 100 HP Kirloskar pumps in the rescue operations, as was urged by petitioner’s counsel senior advocate Anand Grover.
Upon solicitor general Tushar Mehta’s suggestion, the court also issued notice to the illegal mine owner where the tragedy took place. The owner is currently in jail.
Fifteen miners got trapped in a rat-hole coal mine near Lumthari village at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district on December 13 when it was suddenly flooded by water gushing in from the nearby Lytein river. More than a month later, on January 24, Indian Navy and National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) personnel had managed to retrieve one body.
The rat-hole mining involves digging small holes into the ground to extract coal.
Prasad alleged a lethargic approach on the part of the authorities is delaying the rescue operations. In a status report submitted before the court, the government had said the possibility of rescuing the trapped miners was remote and that efforts were underway to recover the dismembered bodies.
Meghalaya has nearly 640 million tonnes of coal reserves. Large-scale illegal and indiscriminate mining of the coal by private landowners and the local community started nearly three decades ago.
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal had banned coal mining in Meghalaya following a series of tragedies between 1992 and 2014.