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Probe raps mine officers

Dhanbad, June 24: The Dhanbad-based Directorate-General of Mines Safety, the only regulatory body for safety in mines across the country, has held the Singreni Colliery Company Limited management responsible for the recent accident in which at least 17 miners were killed.

The director-general and other senior officials of the regulatory body have accused the management of “deliberate negligence” in their preliminary inquiry.

The directorate-general is contemplating filing criminal cases against at least six senior colliery officials over the June 16 mine disaster, regulatory body sources said.

“It was the negligence of the Andhra Pradesh-based colliery officials which ultimately led to the incident. The colliery authorities did not seek permission from us before beginning excavation of coal in that particular mine. The place where coal was being excavated was 2.4 metres from accumulated underground water whereas it is mandatory for them to seek permission when mining within 60 metres of accumulated water,” director-general Ravindra Sharma said.

The regulatory body has already submitted its preliminary findings to the Union coal ministry, the Andhra government, which holds a stake in the company, and the colliery management.

The body has also instituted a “detailed inquiry” into the incident, to be conducted by the director of the Hyderabad zone, B.P. Ahuja.

Sharma termed the accident as “unprecedented” since water used for sand stowing, to fill up the hollow expanses left after excavation of coal, actually inundated the mine at a shallow depth.

“There were altogether 57 mine workers inside the mine when the mishap occurred. While 40 people who were working on a raised platform managed to escape, 17 coal workers working deep inside drowned when the accumulated water gushed inside with force,” he added.

“This is a unique incident, never heard of before in the history of mining in the country. Even the colliery authorities never imagined that the water flushed inside the mine to fill up (hollow expanses) could take the lives of coal mine workers,” Sharma said.

Regulatory body sources said directorate-general inspectors last visited the mine in August last year.

Excavation of coal began on April 29 this year.

The officials facing prosecution include the agent, additional general manager, safety officer and survey officer.

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