Outsourcing of mining, lack of safety steps blamed for Godda mishap
Outsourcing of mining operations to private companies and unchecked illegal mining led to the coal mine cave-in in Jharkhand’s Godda district that claimed at least 10 lives, workers and politicians said on Friday, accusing the Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL) of negligence.
A private company, Mahalaxmi, was mining coal at the site where the accident took place on Thursday night. Mining operations were suspended at the site for six months and resumed three days ago, local miners said.
Godda MP Nishikant Dubey told Hindustan Times that “rampant illegal mining” was being carried out in the area in connivance with local leaders, contractors and officials ignoring the risk factor. The ECL outsourced mining work to private companies that did not take safety measures, the BJP leader added.
“ECL needs to put a check on illegal mining and press for proper safety measures when it outsources mining operations to private stakeholders,” Dubey said, adding that illegal mining in the area led to safety lapses as the miners were always in fear of getting nabbed by the police.
He said a meeting with union coal and renewable energy minister Piyush Goyal has been fixed in the first week of January to decide if private companies should be allowed to undertake mining and discuss safety measures.
In the opencast mining, the weight of the overburden – upper layer of the soil, removed and heaped around by miners to reach the underground coal — forced the mine to cave in, said RP Singh, vice president of the All India Coal Workers Federation (AICWF).
“It is utter negligence on the part of the company. The overburden should have been heaped at a safe distance from the place where mining work was in progress, but the company ignored the risk,” Singh said.
This is not the first time a mine has caved in in Jharkhand, where many families dwell over underground fire, risking life 24x7.
Singh said, “Opencast mines are least vulnerable to such accidents if the miners are cautious about maintaining a safe distance from the overburden, but private companies usually don’t want to use men or machines to remove the overburden.”
Accusing the mining company of negligence, Jharkhand’s first chief minister Babulal Marandi said outsourcing of mining operations to private parties risked the miners’ lives in the area.
An ECL official from the regional office in Asansol said all safety measures were taken by the company. “You should not blame ECL for the mishap. We are a public sector undertaking and safety of miners is of utmost importance to us. We do not work with the sole objective of earning profit,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
Chief minister Raghubar Das said those responsible for the incident would not be spared.