Meghalaya to create joint teams to check illegal mines

Such teams will be authorised to seize and confiscate any illegal mines, including machinery and equipment

By Our Correspondent in Shillong
  • Published 11.01.19, 1:05 AM
  • Updated 11.01.19, 9:30 AM
  • 2 mins read
A Fire and Disaster team pumping water from a nearby shaft located 500 meters from the main site of the collapsed coal mine in Meghalaya's Ksan, on January 01, 2019 (AP)

The Meghalaya government has decided to rein in illegal coal mines across the mining districts by forming joint teams of the police, mining and geology and transport departments.

The decision to form the teams was taken at a meeting held recently, chaired by chief secretary Y. Tsering.

In the meeting, it was decided that the joint teams would function under the supervision of the deputy commissioner/superintendent of police, and the team has been mandated to seize and confiscate any illegal mines, including machineries and equipment.

The decision to rein in illegal coal mines assumes significance after the December 13, 2018 incident at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills where 15 miners were trapped inside a coal mine. But till date, there has been no sign whether rescuers would be able to reach them.

The meeting also came as the Supreme Court had allowed transportation of the extracted and assessed coal from December 4, 2018 to January 31, 2019. About 1,76,665 metric tonnes of coal is yet to be transported.

Since the NGT had promulgated a ban on coal mining in Meghalaya in April 2014, the tribunal and the apex court had from time to time allowed the transportation of the coal, which was extracted prior to the ban.

Moreover, the meeting was informed about coal-laden trucks plying either with no transit challan or duplicate challan. The police had recently arrested three people who were selling challans.

A section of coal miners, however, has alleged that the transit challans have been given on the basis of “pick and choose” where many miners were yet to receive the challans. The police have been asked to take strict action against those truckers which are plying without valid documents and challans.

In the meeting, it was informed that necessary mineral transport challans have been issued to “genuine” mine owners who have claimed through their applications by depositing the required royalty amount.

Moreover, the meeting was briefed about the movement of trucks across various exit routes and weighbridges. On the NGT’s directive to the state government to deposit Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board, the meeting felt that an application might be filed before the tribunal with a request to allow the state government to deposit the amount from the funds under the Meghalaya Environment Protection and Restoration Fund (MEPRF). Up to May 31 last year, Rs 410 crore had been deposited to this account.

Dewatering continues

Dewatering of coal mines in and around the mine where 15 miners are trapped since December 13 continues with no sign yet of the miners.

The Kirloskar Brothers Limited from Pune could once again operate its submersible pumps in the main shaft after the machines had suffered some glitches. Official spokesperson R. Susngi said 4,50,000 litres of water was pumped out of the main shaft.

Machines from the Coal India Limited could pump out 4,53,600 litres from an old shaft located near the main shaft while machines of the Odisha fire and disaster management services were able to take out 4,50,000 litres of water from another old shaft.

Earlier in the day, Susngi said Indian Navy personnel had reported that they have searched six mines, including the main shaft. The search and rescue operations at Ksan has entered the 28th day on Wednesday.

Indian navy divers, personnel from NDRF, SDRF, Odisha fire and disaster management services, Meghalaya police, civil defence, Coal India Limited and the Kirloskar Brothers Limited have all been engaged in the operations.