Shillong: Following the tragic incident in which more than 15 miners were trapped and went untraced in a coal mine in South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, the state government now wants to hold private mine owners responsible for any mishap in their mines.
"We would soon come with an executive order as the government is concerned over the lack of safety norms in mining areas across the state which is posing a serious threat to the life of the thousands of labourers who are working in these mines," said Deputy Chief Minister Bindo Mathew Lanong and Minister-in-charge of Mining and Geology department.
Mineral-rich Meghalaya, at present, does not have a mining policy in place and as such coal and other minerals are extracted by mine owners at their own risk and wisdom without having any mechanism to check on the welfare and safety of miners.
Last week, a special team from the National Disaster and Rescue Force (NDRF) pulled out from a rescue mission at Nongalbibra citing that they found no trapped miners during their intense 14 hours search in the `rat-hole` coal mine and that the mission is posing a threat to the rescuers.
After more than 200 hours of being untraced, the district authorities said their hopes to find the trapped miners alive is shut.
"It would be a miracle practically to find alive even one of the miners from underneath the mines," South Garo Hills deputy commissioner RP Marak said.
According to the official, even if they were to be alive somewhere, they would have consumed toxic gas, emanating usually in mines, and be dead by now.
Admitting that the July 6 incident is an eye opener for the state government, Lanong said the move to pass an executive order is to strictly follow safety norms by mine operators and owners.
He informed that the final draft of the mining policy awaits a cabinet nod.
The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has estimated that Meghalaya has around 460 Million Tonnes (MT) of high grade sub-bituminous coal with less ash content compared to the coal found in any other parts of the country.
Villages located in the coal belts areas in the state are actually sitting on a network of `rat-hole` trenches underneath dug out across a hundred feet below the surface of the earth while looking for coal.