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RAT-HOLE MINING IN MEGHALAYA



  May 13, 2024

RAT-HOLE MINING IN MEGHALAYA



What is Rat-Hole Mining?

Rat-hole mining is a method used primarily in the northeastern parts of India, like Meghalaya, where small tunnels are dug just large enough for a person to crawl through and extract coal. This form of mining is typically done manually by local workers.

Causes of Rat-Hole Mining:

1. Economic Necessity: In regions like Meghalaya, mining is a significant source of livelihood for many, leading to the persistence of rat-hole mining despite its bans and restrictions.

2. Regulatory Challenges: Weak enforcement of mining regulations and lack of strict oversight allow such practices to continue under the radar.

Effects of Rat-Hole Mining:

1. Environmental Damage: Significant ecological damage including deforestation, water pollution from acid mine drainage, and soil erosion.

2. Health Hazards: The miners face severe health risks such as respiratory issues from coal dust, physical injuries, and even fatalities due to unsafe mining conditions.

3. Socio-economic Consequences: Though providing short-term employment, such mining practices do not lead to sustainable economic development and often leave communities vulnerable.

Remedies and Challenges:

1. Implementation of Existing Laws: Effective enforcement of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal's bans on rat-hole mining.

2. Environmental Restoration: Utilizing funds like the Meghalaya Environment Protection and Restoration Fund (MEPRF) to restore the damaged ecosystems is crucial but has been noted as underutilized.

3. Sustainable Development: Promoting alternative, sustainable forms of livelihood for affected communities to reduce dependency on such hazardous jobs.

Recent Developments:

A panel led by Justice Brojendra Prasad Katakey has been critical of the slow progress in environmental restoration in Meghalaya. Despite the availability of substantial funds (₹400 crore in MEPRF), there has been little to no use in reversing the damage caused by rat-hole mining. The panel also highlights ongoing issues like acid mine drainage from abandoned mines, impacting local communities adversely.

To address the unregulated mining and its environmental fallout, the panel has recommended drone surveys to locate illegal coal deposits and ensure proper auditing and payment of royalties from coal usage in industries. This approach aims to tighten regulation and ensure accountability within the coal mining sector in Meghalaya.



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