Magazine article New Internationalist

Into the Darkness

Magazine article New Internationalist

Into the Darkness

Article excerpt

The tragic deaths of workers in a 'rat-hole' coalmine in Meghalaya, northeast India, has once again highlighted the precarious situation for artisanal miners.

On 13 December 2018, an estimated 15 workers died after the nearby Lytein River flooded a 110-metre deep illegal mine, blocking their exit.

This is not an isolated incident. With no safety equipment or rescue protocols in place, unregulated mines in the East Jaintia Hills district have served as death traps for unknown numbers of workers over the years.

To access the coal, miners dig holes into the sides of a central pit, to tap into seams via tunnels that measure less than a metre high, using pick axes and wooden carts. There are no records or maps of the tunnels, which delays rescue efforts when emergencies happen.

Many miners are children, who can access the tunnels more easily due to their size. Research by the NGO Impulse Network mapped some 5,000 illegal mines in Meghalaya between 2007 and 2010. …

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