Assam: 3 coal miners still trapped inside illegal mine

DIBRUGARH, 28 May: Three people remained trapped inside an illegal rat-hole mine in Assam’s Tinsukia district for the third consecutive day on Monday as efforts continued to rescue them, officials said.

Tinsukia District Commissioner Swapneel Paul said that, apart from local authorities, the NDRF and the SDRF have been engaged in the search and rescue operations to find out the miners.

“The three coal miners are still missing. One team each from the NDRF and SDRF, and local rescue workers are trying to locate the missing miners.

¬†Excavators are being used to dig the rubbles,” he told PTI.

Paul further said that no case has been registered so far and no arrest has been made as investigation is underway to find out the culprits.

The incident occurred at around 12:30 am on Sunday when the rat-hole mine caved in due to a sudden landslide in the illegal Tikok West mining site between Bargolai and Namdang, located under the Tikok colliery in Ledo.

Three coal miners were trapped inside the illegal rat-hole mine after the landslide in Patkai hills.

Among those trapped is Dawa Sherpa from Bhojpur in Nepal, and two workers are from Meghalaya, identified as John and Fenaal.

In total, four coal workers were engaged in the work of procuring illegal coal from the rat-hole mine. Three of them went inside the mine and the fourth one was assisting in coal transportation.

“It is suspected that the three coal miners are already dead and buried under the rubble. However, we cannot say it until we get their bodies,” another district administration official said.

Meanwhile, local organisations vehemently criticised the district administration and the police for failing to nab the coal mafias involved in the illegal extraction of coal.

“Everybody knows that rat-hole mining is taking place in the Patkai hills. The police have been managed by the coal mafias most of the time. The illegal rat-hole mining has been posing a serious threat to the biodiversity, as well, apart from safety of workers,” alleged a local resident.

He pointed out that it was not the first incident where miners have died inside mines, with many similar incidents happening earlier in the Patkai hills, but the administration failed to nab the culprits involved in rat-hole mining.

The National Green Tribunal had banned rat-hole mining in 2014. However, coal is still extracted by this dangerous method in the Northeast.

“The coal mafias engage poor workers who go inside the rat-hole mine to procure coal. For earning some money, they risk their lives. Many times, these workers get trapped inside the mine for various reasons and die. Most of such instances go unreported,” a social worker said on condition of anonymity.

“For many years, this process has been going on in the Margherita-Ledo area, which has now become a crime belt,” he claimed. (PTI)