January 23, 2021 2:02:08 am
Six labourers were killed in an accident involving a crane near an abandoned coal mine close to Sorkari, Deinshalu village, in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district on Thursday, a senior police officer said.
“Prima facie the reason appears to be an accident of the crane, may be due to some defect… Five persons have already been identified,” Meghalaya Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui told the media. The deceased hailed from Assam.
“A criminal case has already been registered under Khliehriat police station, and investigation of the case is in progress to establish the whereabouts of the mine owner and the manager of the mine, who have been absconding since the time of the incident,” a police press statement said.
A senior police officer told The Indian Express that there was no trace of fresh coal at the site. “The location is very remote…We will investigate whether there was any attempt at illegal coal mining,” the officer said.
Coal mining in Meghalaya came into the spotlight in 2018, when at least 15 workers got trapped and died inside a mine in Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district.
The Ksan accident brought to light that illegal rat-hole mining, involving narrow tunnels dug into mountains for workers to move through and extract coal, had continued to thrive in Meghalaya despite an NGT ban in 2014.
In July 2019, the Supreme Court had allowed mining operations to continue in the state on privately and community-owned land, subject to the condition that all necessary permissions and clearances were obtained. When allegations of illegal coal mining were raised in October last year, CM Conrad Sangma said the claims were politically motivated.
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