Meghalaya coal mine owner detained, 5 still trapped inside
Representation image | Photo credit: PTI
Shillong: The owner of an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya in the East Jaintia Hills district, in which five miners remain trapped for four days, has been arrested, a police officer said on Thursday.
The owner, Shining Langstang, was arrested in the village of Sutnga near the mine.
The holed Umpleng mine, about 12 miles from Khliehriat, the seat of the East Jaintia Hills district, was flooded Sunday after a dynamite explosion.
Hazardous rat hole mining is not allowed in the Meghalaya after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned in 2014.
A deep vertical shaft is dug until coal seams are found in the rathole mining operation. Once the seams are found, the coal is extracted through small holes along the horizontal line of the coal seams.
“The Sordar (mine manager) is on the run and we are trying to stop him. In this regard, a lookout has been issued and his posters have been put up throughout the district,” Police Commissioner Jagpal said. Singh Dhanoa.
A statement issued by Meghalaya police on May 31 said: “The main culprit according to eyewitnesses is ‘Sordar’ (manager) of the mine who did nothing to rescue the trapped workers and drive out the survivors.”
Based on the survivors’ accounts, an FIR was registered at the Khliehriat police station (district headquarters), the SP said.
Although the joint operations of the personnel of the Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the fire service were supported on Thursday by a team of 24 members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) , the divers were unable to progress due to the water level in the main vertical shaft, an official said.
At least five miners have been identified by the district administration – four from Assam and one from Tripura – who are stranded somewhere in the mine.
The SP said six colleagues of those trapped who miraculously escaped while outside the mine were escorted to their homes in Assam.
However, the district administration filed a complaint against the survivors as they were also allegedly involved in illegal mining, the SP said.
Survivors will not be arrested if they comply with police orders to appear when needed, he said.
East Jaintia Hills District Deputy Commissioner E Kharkmalki said: “Today the NDRF team confirmed that the water level is 150 feet in the main vertical well, which does not is not conducive to rescue operations.
“From now, more water pumps should be put into operation to lower the water level. More water pumps will be used tomorrow,” he said.
A magistrate stationed at the crash site said none of the trapped miners could be located because the water level is too high for rescue divers to enter the mine.
Rescuers tried to reach the miners with hooks, ropes and a crane on Wednesday, but efforts were unsuccessful.
Silchar’s police superintendent in Assam had informed authorities here about the possible entrapment of six Assam workers in the mine accident on May 30.
Opposition leader Mukul Sangma on Wednesday held the state government responsible for the incident and alleged that illegal coal mining operates with impunity across Meghalaya.
The Umpleng accident is similar to the one in which an illegal rat mine in the Ksan area of the same district was flooded on December 13, 2018.
Only three bodies were recovered inside the mine as part of a joint effort by the Navy, Army and NDRF, and seven months after a futile search for the bodies of more than 15 miners trapped in mine, operations were canceled.
Another coal mine in the South Garo Hills district was flooded in 2012 and residents claimed 15 workers had died, but their bodies were not found.