Meghalaya mine tragedy: Indian Navy recovers body of one of 15 miners, says will be extracted only under supervision of doctors

FP Staff
The rescue teams — which included the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) — detected the body of a miner on Tuesday, with the help of an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (ROV).

Over a month after 15 miners were trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya, the Indian Navy recovered the body of one of the miners from the site at East Jaintia Hills. The body was found at a depth of more than 200 feet as the search operation for the rest of the miners continued.

According to News18, the rescue teams €" which included the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) €" detected the body of a miner on Tuesday, with the help of an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (ROV). On their Twitter handle, the Indian Navy clarified that the body has been pulled upto the mouth of rat-hole mine and will be extracted only under the supervision of doctors.

On 13 December, water from nearby Lytein river flooded a network of tunnels in a coal mine in Lumthari village of East Jaintia Hills, trapping 15 men and prompting a rescue attempt that has failed to yield any result so far.

The Supreme Court had on Tuesday banned transportation of coal in Meghalaya till 19 February, refusing a plea by the miners to send extracted coal left to transport since the 2014 National Green Tribunal ban on mining.

Meghalaya chief secretary Y Tsering issued an order directing authorities to ensure compliance of the directions of the Supreme Court without fail. "In pursuance of the directions of the Supreme Court in its sitting Tuesday as communicated by the learned advocate general, transportation of coal in the state of Meghalaya is hereby stopped with immediate effect," Tsering said in his order.

A citizens' forum in Meghalaya, in which RTI activist Agnes Kharshiing was part of, had demanded the Supreme Court to issue a complete ban on coal mining/transportation in the state. The forum alleged collusions between the state government and the illegal coal miners wherein the courts and the NGT were misled on several occasions on the total amount of extracted coal waiting to be transported. The Supreme Court has also rapped the Meghalaya government for failing to curb illegal mining.

Due to lack of employment opportunities, the youth from states like Assam and Meghalaya are forced to take up mining jobs. A newbie miner can earn Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 a day, while an experienced one can make up to Rs 4,000. A daily wage labourer in Assam, on the other hand, can only make Rs 300-400 daily, according to this Firstpost report.

On 13 December, water from nearby Lytein river flooded a network of tunnels in a coal mine in Lumthari village of East Jaintia Hills, trapping 15 men and prompting a rescue attempt that has failed to yield any result so far. Rat-hole mining involves digging of narrow tunnels, usually 3-4 feet high, for workers to enter and extract coal. The horizontal tunnels are often termed "rat-holes", as each just about fits one person.

A three-member committee of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Meghalaya Police to investigate into nearly 1200 cases of illegal quarrying across the state.

An official said the police have been told that their probe should reach a logical conclusion after taking into account all 1200 cases of illegal rat-hole mining in East Garo Hills, South-West Khasi Hills and West and East Jaintia Hills districts.

The navy has augmented a total of 5 naval ROVs on site for the search operation. On 11 January, the Meghalaya government told a Supreme Court bench of Justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer that one crore litre of water had been pumped out from the illegal mine but seepage form nearby rivers was creating hurdles in the operation. The counsel told the court that the person running the illegal mine where the incident took place had been arrested.

The bench will next hear the matter on 18 January.

With inputs from agencies

Also See: How is illegal rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya still on despite NGT ban? Asks Supreme Court; bans coal transport till 19 Feb

Meghalaya mine rescue operation: Centre tells Supreme Court it has no blueprint of illegal mine, struggling to locate miners

'Trapped Meghalaya miners should be brought out dead or alive': Supreme Court pulls up state govt over plight of workers

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