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19 Dec 2018

Ishan Kukreti, Down To Earth, India

India: The unregulated, lethal and corrupt world of Meghalaya’s rat-hole mines

"The unregulated, lethal and corrupt world of Meghalaya’s rat-hole mines", 17 December 2018

It has been two days since 13 workers got trapped in an illegal rat-hole mine in the East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. On the morning of December 13, the mine, which the authorities say is around 320 feet deep, was flooded by a nearby river, trapping the miners...These rat-hole mines are spread throughout Meghalaya, but are mostly concentrated in the Jaintia Hills...On April 17, 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned illegal rat-hole mining after [a petition was filed] that highlighted the unscientific and unregulated rat-hole coal mining operations in the Jaintia Hills. However, following protests by the mining lobby, the tribunal allowed the transport of already-mined coal. 

The Meghalaya government challenged the NGT ban in the Supreme Court in November this year. In its last hearing, the apex court extended the time for transportation of mined coal till January 31, 2019...The court also appointed human rights lawyer...as the amicus curiae in the case. A Citizen’s Report on the illegal coal mining has also been submitted in the court through [the lawyer] that talks about the environmental and human cost of running these mines. 

...the illegal extraction of coal in the state has also been pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) this year in its report on the revenue sector of the state...The CAG report found that the under-reporting of coal exported to Bangladesh resulted in the short realisation of revenue by around Rs.46 crore...The CAG report also found that the mine owners did not pay the royalties to the District Mining Officer (DMO)..