India’s Meghalaya mining crisis finally makes progress in its search for 15 missing miners
- After a month of searching, the search for the 15 miners in
Meghalayafinally seems to have yielded results.
- The underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) spotted a body 160 feet into a ‘rat hole’ mine that was flooded by the Lytein River.
- The body is being brought out under the supervision of doctors and the search continues for the 14 remaining miners.
#MeghalayaMineTragedy The depth is 160 feet (and not 60 feet) and the body has been pulled upto the mouth of Rat-ho… https://t.co/F5tH54k3Xa— SpokespersonNavy (@indiannavy) 1547696283000
The body is being brought up to the mouth of the mine under the supervision of doctors — and the hunt is still on for the remaining 14 miners.
The efforts to rescue the miners were halted altogether two weeks into the operation when the pumps available to the state government gave out under stress. It was only then that firefighters from Odisha and the Indian Navy were called in to help.
The flooding from the Lytein river created a situation that even Indian Navy divers couldn’t go deep enough to access the rat holes until the water in the mine was taken out.
Dangers of mining practices in this part of the country is exactly why the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned mining in Meghalaya in 2014. Despite the ban, mining practices have continued. In early January, two miners died in an illegal ‘side cutting’ mine in another part of the state.
Here’s a quick look at the Meghalaya mining crisis:
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the specialised task force in charge of the rescue operation, stated that they have, “never dealt with such a crisis before.”
The government of Meghalaya had to pause their rescue efforts after the two 25-horsepower pumps that they had at their disposal became ineffective due to stressed use.Advertisement
Despite the NDRF’s best efforts, the situation on the ground didn’t change significantly since the mine was run illegally and there were no maps to help guide the divers.
The Odisha firefighters and the Indian Navy were called in to assist with the rescue efforts. The firemen are helping dewater the mine, while the Indian Navy has sent in divers.Advertisement
Using an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (UROV), the Indian Navy divers were able to discern where a wooden structure with a rat hole beneath it and another rathole that had coal clogging its entrance were located.
But, even the Navy has stated that an effective search will only be feasible once the water level comes down. Until further dewatering of the mine takes place, divers can’t have access to those rat holes.Advertisement
The machines that were originally available — including sonar radios and heavy water suction pumps — weren’t successful in reducing the water level by even a centimetre.
Coal India Limited agreed to send in high-capacity submersible pumps that can pump out 500 gallons of water per minute — but they will take at least two days to set up. High-capacity pumps of Kirloskar Brother Limited as also expected to reach the mining site soon.Advertisement
The miners are trapped in a coal mine in Ksan village — that is around 130 kilometers from Shillong, the state’s capital city — when the mines were flooded by the nearby Lytein river.
The last 70 feet of the 320 feet drop into the mine is completely submerged in water, and the water is black since it’s mixed in with the coal.Advertisement
Not only is the depth of the mine an issue, but also the fact that it essentially renders the divers blind when they’re attempting to conduct their search.
The search didn’t start too well to begin with since it took the police a few hours to even locate the mine. The localities in the area feigned ignorance of any such mining activity in the area since ‘rat-hole’ mining since it’s illegal and they were afraid that the mine owners, who are currently on the run, might cause them harm.Advertisement
Despite ‘rat-hole’ mining being illegal, the practice is prevalent in many parts of the state.
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