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Rescue operations underway at the illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya
NEWS

Ops to rescue remaining miners to continue: Meghalaya minister

State govt reiterates commitment; all efforts will be put in place, says James K Sangma

Shillong: Following a directive from the Supreme Court, the Meghalaya government has reiterated its commitment that search operation for the remaining 13 miners trapped inside a 370-ft-deep coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district will continue.

Talking to a media organisation, Meghalaya home minister James K Sangma said that all efforts will be put in place to ensure that the operation continues.

Earlier, the Supreme Court asked Centre and Meghalaya government to continue efforts to rescue miners trapped in the illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district. A bench headed by Justice AK Sikri asked the governments to keep looking for the miners, days after Indian navy’s divers detected the body of a second miner. The order came after the Meghalaya government had informed it that the workers trapped in an illegal coal mine for more than a month may have died. Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta had assured the court that the Centre was not abandoning efforts to rescue the trapped miners.

The Supreme Court also came down strongly on the Meghalaya government on the issue of rampant illegal mining of coal in the state. Highlighting the plight of miners trapped inside the illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills, the court said the same indicated that the state had failed in dealing with the problem. It also asked the state government to file an affidavit on what it was doing to curb illegal mining.

“If any steps were being taken to stop illegal mining, these incidents would not be happening", the court observed.

The court also refused to grant additional time to mine owners to transport the coal that had already been extracted. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed a blanket ban on unscientific and unsafe mining of coal in Meghalaya in 2014. The state government had earlier told the court that the coal being transported had been extracted before the NGT ban.

Although two decomposed bodies of the miners have been found over 200 feet away from the bottom of the main shaft, only one of them could be pulled out and was handed over to family members in Assam.

Efforts are underway to retrieve the remains of the second miner, but the operation is taking longer as there are many obstacles like narrow tunnels and the turbidity of water.