No lessons learnt: on Meghalaya mining
Mains Paper 2: Economy
Prelims level: Mining disaster
Mains level: Disaster management
- The disaster that struck a coal mine at Ksan in Meghalaya’s
Jaintia Hills district on December 13, trapping at least 13 workers, is a
shocking reminder that a fast-growing economy such as India continues to
allow Dickensian mining practices.
- India being home to some of the worst mine disasters, such as
Chasnala near Dhanbad in 1975 in which more than 370 people were killed, the
full spectrum of mining activity should be tightly regulated.
- The Ksan mine, referred to as a rat hole, was allowed to function
in violation of not just safety norms but a complete prohibition issued by
the National Green Tribunal.
The administrative loopholes
- The administration did not act to stop unscrupulous operators of
the illegal mine from exploiting desperate workers, some of them from Assam,
who were willing to work the rat hole tunnels because that is the most
remunerative employment available to them.
- Unscientific mining led to a collapse of the chamber and deadly
flooding followed. After disaster struck.
- It was incumbent on the Meghalaya government to launch an
immediate rescue effort.
- But it did not possess the equipment to dewater the stricken mine
quickly, and did not show any urgency in requisitioning it from elsewhere.
- In spite of the involvement of the National Disaster Response
- The families of the workers are now left hoping for a miracle.
- Meghalaya has no excuse for not closing down such dangerous mines.
- What it can and should do now, jointly with the Assam government
where needed, is to offer adequate compensation and jobs for the next of kin
of the workers without delay.
Major highlights of the incident
- Official inquiries into flooding disasters at approved mines,
including Chasnala, have shown serious shortcomings in safety management.
- Two years ago, a landslip at an open cast mine in Goda, Jharkhand,
killed 23 people, raising questions about the rigour of the technical
assessment done prior to expansion of extraction activity.
- A study on three big flooding accidents published in 2016 by the
IIT-Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, concluded that the official approach of
fixing responsibility on human error was flawed, since it did not try to
identify the root cause.
- There is little evidence to show that pre-mining surveys and
safety protocols are incorporating such advice.
- The case of illegal mines falls in a different category.
- Unapproved work, which appears to have led to the Meghalaya
accident, cannot continue, and employment should be provided to those who
- Illegal mining has been highlighted by activists, but they have
become targets of violence by those operating the mines.
- In the glare of national attention, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma
has acknowledged that illegal mining does take place.
- His government has been remiss as it failed to act on the NGT’s
- It must bear responsibility for what has happened at Ksan, and
work to prevent such tragedies.
Q.1) Which of the following is/are sources of mercury pollution?
2. Forest fire
3. Burning of coal
4. Discharge from paper and pulp industries
5. Incineration of medical and municipal waste
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1, 2 and 3 only
(b) 1, 4 and 5 only
(c) 3, 4 and 5 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Q.1) The Meghalaya mining disaster exposes a series of administrative
lapses. Critically examine the statement.