Jharkhand: Five killed, 20 injured as illegal coal mine caves in

Illegal mining claims several lives every year in Jharkhand’s coal belt, but the lure of easy money is too strong for local residents to ignore.
A minor picks up chunks of coal from an open-cast mine in Jharkhand.(Ravi Choudhary/HT File)
A minor picks up chunks of coal from an open-cast mine in Jharkhand.(Ravi Choudhary/HT File)
Updated on May 27, 2017 07:18 PM IST
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Five people died and at least 20 others were injured when an illegal coal mine in Girdih district caved in early on Saturday morning.

The deceased were identified as Mohammed Kurban (35), Mohammed Shamim (50), Mohammed Jahid (23), Mohammed Enamul (23) and Mohammed Chhote (24) – all local residents. The injured were being treated at various nursing homes in the city.

The illegal mine was located next to the Central Coalfields Limited’s Kabribad opencast mine, barely four kilometres from the district headquarters. Sources said the incident occurred around 12.30 am, after which the police were informed. A rescue operation was launched with the help of local residents.

“Some villagers were operating an illegal mine with scant regard for safety norms. Appropriate legal action will be taken against the people who employed the deceased and injured. The bodies have been sent to the Sadar Hospital for an autopsy, after which they would be handed over to their family members,” said sub-divisional police officer Manish Toppo.

Illegal mining is done through openings created into already existing mines, he said. “The illegal operation had been on for several years now. The coal mined from here was sent to various steel re-rolling mills and hard coke units, among other industries, in the district.”

Police said illegal mines continue to proliferate in the region, despite several steps taken to shut them down.

RK Mishra, a local leader of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, held the Central Coalfields Limited responsible for the incident. He said the management ignored his demand that the illegal openings be filled despite being aware of the frequent deaths.

“Two major accidents have occurred at these illegal mines in as many months, but the management remains a mute spectator,” Mishra added.

On May 24, a 40-year-old mechanic and his teenage son died after the ground under their feet gave away in neighbouring Jharia. A raging underground coal fire was responsible for the incident.

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