New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday came down strongly on the Meghalaya government on the issue of rampant illegal mining of coal in the state. Highlighting the plight of 15 miners trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills, the court said the same indicated that the state had failed in dealing with the problem. It also asked the state government to file an affidavit on what it was doing to curb illegal mining.

“If any steps were being taken to stop illegal mining, these incidents would not be happening", the court observed.

The court also refused to grant additional time to mine owners to transport the coal that had already been extracted. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed a blanket ban on unscientific and unsafe mining of coal in Meghalaya in 2014. The state government had earlier told the court that the coal being transported had been extracted before the NGT ban.

Around 15 miners are trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since the last one month. They were trapped after flood waters from the Lytein river gushed into the 370-feet deep rat-hole mine. The top court is also hearing a plea seeking immediate steps by the Centre and the state government to rescue them. The petition had sought a direction to the Centre and other authorities to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for rescue operations in mining accidents. It also wanted to know why heavy duty pumps by private companies such as Kirloskar Brothers Ltd were not being used for the rescue operation. The Kirloskars had offered four pumps of 100 horsepower each, while the Tatas offered two. It also sought the intervention of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, already engaged in the rescue operation.

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