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7 Jan 2019

Abhishek Saha, The Indian Express

India: Meghalaya mine collapse: Beyond the tragedy, for state’s politicians, mining their own business

"Meghalaya mine collapse: Beyond the tragedy, for state’s politicians, mining their own business", 29 December 2018

Two weeks after 15 workers in Meghalaya were trapped while mining coal using the “rat-hole technique,” and are feared dead now, Lok Sabha MP [a member of the lower house of parliament] from Shillong...told the House...this should be “regularised”. This method — with narrow tunnels dug in mountains for workers to move through and extract coal — was slammed as illegal, unscientific and harmful, and banned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on April 17, 2014.

[The MP] made this demand but what he did not spell out was that he was also a prominent coal businessman in the state...About a dozen politicians allegedly own coal mines themselves or have relatives as mine owners and were named by a Citizens’ Report prepared by civil society groups in Meghalaya and submitted to the Supreme Court earlier this month...

When asked about his involvement in coal mining [the MP]....said, “I had 30-40 coal mines but I have stopped mining in them since the NGT ban..."...The NGT’s 2014 order had noted that the counsel for the petitioners had explained to the court how “rat-hole mining operations have been in practice in the Jaintia Hills of the State of Meghalaya many years without being regulated by any law and extraction of coal has been made by unscrupulous elements in a most illegal and unscientific manner”...[The MP], however, said the laws which regulate mining in other parts of the country cannot be followed in Meghalaya because the nature of coal deposit is very different from what we find in other parts of the country...