Thirteen miners are feared dead in India after the shaft of a mine they were illegally digging collapsed and flooded in the remote northeastern state of Meghalaya.
Officials told CNN efforts are underway to pump water out of the coal mine in the state’s East Jaintia Hills district after the miners became trapped Thursday.
“There is a river nearby and due to the overflowing of water, they have been trapped inside,” said F.M. Dopth, deputy commissioner of the East Jaintia Hills district’s administration. “We are pumping the water out right now with the help of a generator. The mine is inside a jungle near (the) Lytein Rver and was being operated illegally.”
The miners are believed to be stuck 300 feet deep, Dopth said.
India’s National Green Tribunal banned unscientific and unsafe coal mining in the state in 2014 in a method described as “rat-hole mining.” The term is used because of the small size of the holes dug.
However, illegal mining carried out by private landowners and the local community is widespread.
“We are very concerned about the individuals and their lives. …,” Conrad Sangma, chief minister of the state Meghalaya, told reporters Friday.
“At the same time, we are aware that illegal activities were going on, and this is something that is not correct, but I think appropriate action will be taken at the appropriate time against people who are involved with illegal mining.”
Sangma added, “This is something that is not acceptable to us, but I think what is most important right now is to save the lives of these individuals.”
Meghalaya boasts large deposits of valuable minerals such as coal, limestone, kaolin, clay, granite, glass sand, and uranium.
According to the state government, it has more than 576 million tons of coal reserves.