Before Meghalaya’s worst, here are few mining disasters that shook India in the past


TNT News | January 3, 2019

On the fateful day of December 13, 2018, fifteen miners in Meghalaya were trapped in the illegal "rat-hole" coal mine on December 13 last year at Ksan, in the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya after water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it. Seven of the 15 trapped labourers hail from West Garo Hills district, five from Assam and three from the remote Lumthari village, where the accident took place.

This incident evoked nationwide attention towards the rampant menace of illegal coal mining in the state of Meghalaya.

It may be mentioned that several miners die due to accidents in the mines per year in India, especially coal mining and hard rock mining. Deaths inside the mines occur due to many causes including leaks of poisonous gases such as hydrogen sulphide or explosive natural gases, especially firedamp or methane, dust explosions, collapsing of mine stopes, Mining Induced Seismicity, flooding, or general mechanical errors from improperly used or malfunctioning mining equipment.

Below are some mining disasters which shook India in the past:

** 1965 Dhanbad coal mine disaster: The 1965 Dhanbad coal mine disaster occurred on May 28, 1965, in a coal mine near Dhanbad, a town in India. On the fateful day, there was an explosion in Dhori colliery near Dhanbad, which led to fire in the mines. The fire killed 268 miners. Dhori colliery is located near Bermo. The mine was at that time privately owned by the Raja of Ramgarh.

** 1975 Chasnala mining disaster: The Chasnala mining disaster took place on December 27, 1975 in a coal mine in Chasnala near Dhanbad in the Indian state of Jharkhand. An explosion in the mine followed by flooding killed 380 miners.

When a roof of coal caved in, 7 million imperial gallons (32,000 m3) of water per minute flooded into the mine. The miners were trapped under a mountain of debris and drowned when the water surged into the mine. The Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO), which owned the mine, said it conformed to international standards.

Amitabh Bachchan starrer Bollywood film Kaala Patthar depicts this tragedy. Shaheed Smarak was built in the memory of the victims.

** 1954 Newton Chikli Colliery disaster: The Newton Chikli Colliery disaster in Chhindwara (M.P) occurred on December 10, 1954. This incident occurred due to flooding of the mine caused by inrush of water from old workings of the same mine. Total 63 persons were entrapped and got drowned.

There were 112 persons inside the mine when it was inundated. 49 persons managed to effect their escape through the incline and the remaining 63 persons were entrapped and drowned.

As per available reports, the working was abandoned in 1933 at one seam. A substantial quantity of water had accumulated in the abandoned workings between 1933 and 1954. New working was started below 13 metres of this seam. The new workings in the bottom seam got connected with the old water-logged workings and water rushed into the new workings, flooding them. The old workings had not been shown correctly on the plan. The management was reportedly unaware of the new workings.

** 1994 Rajpura Dariba Mine VRM disaster: The Rajpura Dariba Mine VRM disaster took place in Dariba, Udaipur on 28 August 1994 at a mine operated by Hindustan Zinc Ltd.

The slurry from a VRM stope where cemented fill could not settle broke through the plug made below the stope. The shaft was undergoing a second phase of deepening. A plug was placed in the shaft to separate the old operating portion from new construction. The slurry got stuck over this shaft plug. Material accumulated for until the weight overwhelmed the plug. The accumulated material flowed through the haulage level and took the shortest path via the main shaft into the mine. All 63 miners in the mine reportedly drowned.

** 2018 Meghalaya coal mine tragedy: The Meghalaya mining accident happened on 13 December 2018, when 15 miners were trapped in a mine in Ksan, in the Indian state of Meghalaya. While five miners managed to escape, rescue efforts for the remaining 15 have continued till 3 January 2019.

The miners are trapped inside the coal mine at a depth of around 370 feet (112 meters) in Jaintia Hills district. The tunnel the miners were in flooded with water after they cut into an adjacent mine which was full of water from the nearby Lytein river.

Service personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force began operations shortly after the miners were trapped. After a request for assistance from the district administration, teams from Coal India, Kirloskar Brothers, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy joined the operation to rescue the miners.


In 2014, Meghalaya's yearly coal production was around 6 million tonnes. In 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), a government body that handles environmental issues in India, issued an order banning mining in Meghalaya, specifically banning mining through the 'rat-hole' technique.

But despite the ban, in subsequent orders following petitions by coal mine owners, the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court of India continued to allow transportation of coal dug prior to the enactment of the order on 17 April 2014. On 4 December 2018 the Supreme Court again issued an order that the transportation of coal mined prior to the ban was extended to January 31, 2019. However NGT as well as anti-mining activists have pointed out that illegal mining of fresh coal still continues. In November 2018, two activists were attacked for gathering evidence of illegal coal mining in the area.


As per the latest update on the ongoing resue operations in Meghalaya, after 22 days of the 15 miners being trapped, the Supreme Court has said that it is not satisfied with the efforts to rescue 15 men trapped in a coal mine in Meghalaya since December 13.

The operation to rescue 15 people, trapped in a 320-foot-deep illegal "rat-hole" mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills, has made little progress since it began. Multiple teams, from the NDRF, Navy and firefighters, are on the ground, trying to make reach the miners.

Compiled by Shweta Raj Kanwar for TNT- The Northeast Today