India’s Meghalaya mining crisis finally makes progress in its search for 15 missing miners

Ksan: Rescue operations underway to evacuate the 15 coal miners trapped inside a flooded coal pit at Ksan village in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills.IANS
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  • After a month of searching, the search for the 15 miners in Meghalaya finally 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.
The Meghalaya mining crisis in India finally seems to have made progress after over a month of searching for the 15 miners trapped in an illegal rat-hole mine. The Indian Navy spotted a body 160 feet into mine using its underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV).


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.

Even Coal India Limited and Kirloskar Brother Limited stepped in to offer high-capacity submersible pumps to help with the process.

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:



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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 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.”

(Image source: Reuters)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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 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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

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.

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.

(Image source: IANS)

Despite ‘rat-hole’ mining being illegal, the practice is prevalent in many parts of the state.

Despite ‘rat-hole’ mining being illegal, the practice is prevalent in many parts of the state.

(Image source: UCAN India)

The reason it’s called ‘rat-hole’ mining is that the narrow tunnels made for mining are normally only 3-4 feet high. They fit one person who has to crawl-in in order to extract the coal.

The coal mining was one of the biggest revenue earners for Meghalaya but the National Green Tribunal had to ban the ‘rat-hole’ method since the safety of the miners was a major concern.

In this case, most the miners weren’t local which makes it easier for the mine owners to run illegal operations and not worry about the backlash from potential mishaps.

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