More illegal mining in India — the state of Meghalaya has more questions than answers


  • While the rescue of the 15 miners stuck in a ‘rat hole’ mine in the eastern state of Meghalaya in India since December 13, 2018, is still underway, two more incidents of illegal mining have come to light.
  • Two miners have lost their lives in one of the incidents, while three more are stuck in another ‘rat hole’ mine.
  • Government officials in Meghalaya have repeatedly denied any knowledge of illegal mining in the state after the ban implemented in 2014.
  • But the chief minister of the state quickly turned on his words after the first incident took place.
  • Data shows that administrative oversight is one of the primary reasons this problem was allowed to continue for so long.
While the Indian government is still struggling to rescue the 15 rat hole miners stuck in the eastern Indian state of Meghalaya, two more incidents of illegal mining in state paint a disturbing picture.

The issue is not only about the prevalence of illegal mining but the resultant loss of life due to the risk involved and lax security regulations.

The first incident is where two miners died as a result of a ‘side cutting’ mine collapsing on top of them. The second is where three miners have been trapped in another ‘rat hole’ mine in the area for nearly nine days according to the locals in the area.

Questions for politicians

Meghalaya has always maintained that the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014 was effectively implemented. But after the mining incident of December 13, 2018, where 15 miners are still stuck in a ‘rat hole’ mine — their story seems to be changing.

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma has admitted to knowing about the illegal mining in Meghalaya only after the incident took place. Earlier that year, when there were allegations of illegal mining activity in Meghalaya, he denied all charges.

"We are aware that illegal mining activities were on. Appropriate action will be taken against those who are involved in it. This is not acceptable to us."

Conrad K Sangma, Chief Minister of Meghalaya

Reports also show that over the past four years — despite the coal mining ban being in place — over 2,700 trucks have seized containing coal even though only about 1,100 cases were actually registered.

Experts cite the prevalence of mining in Meghalaya to three reasons. One, that these ‘risky’ mining practices are also cheaper than conventional methods lacking the usual safety requirements. Two, there is political support in place. And, three, the local community needs the job opportunity since they are mostly migrants from neighboring states.

The fact that the mines are privately owned makes it even harder to keep track of where they are, who owns them or even of their exact number.

So rather than illegal mining in Meghalaya being a surprise, it was more of administrative oversight that allowed the phenomenon to continue.

See also:
Photos that show the efforts to rescue 15 miners trapped in illegal 'rat hole’ mine in India

For 74 Indian activists, the punishment for seeking the truth has been death

Indian authorities used Google Maps to expose illegal sand mining activities
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