01/03/2019, 17.04
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As miners remain trapped in illegal mine in Meghalaya, government told to bring them out ‘dead or alive’

Some 15 miners have been missing since 13 December. There is no information on their fate. India mines 95 minerals in over 1,500 official mines. No one knows how many illegal mines there are. Even children work underground.

Tura (AsiaNews) – Hope to save 15 people trapped in an illegal coal mine in Ksan, in the north-eastern Indian State of Meghalaya, is diminishing quickly. The miners went down 115 metres into the shaft three weeks ago before it was flooded.

Fr Giuseppe Chirackal, secretary of Mgr Andrew R Marak, bishop of Tura, told AsiaNews that “the men were trapped in a so-called rat-hole mine, which tells you just how dangerous it is. Today the Supreme Court said that the government must do more to bring them out, dead or alive.”

In India, illegal mines are commonplace. However, no one knows how many there are. Only legally registered mines are counted: 1,531 in the whole country and are state-owned (in addition to uranium mines and those of other minor minerals).

The mining sector is regulated by the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957. The Union Ministry of Mines is responsible for law enforcement, using among other things, drones and satellites.

According to the Ministry’s 2017-2018 Annual Report, the sector represents 2.3 per cent of GDP. Some 95 minerals are mined: 4 fuel, 10 metallic, 47 non-metallic, three atomic and 55 minor minerals.

Coal mining represents 80 per cent of the total. The remaining 20 per cent ​​involves other minerals like gold, copper, iron, lead, bauxite, zinc and uranium.

India is the third largest coal producer in the world and among the top for mica, a material used in the cosmetics industry to give shine to eye shadows, foundation creams and lipsticks. It is also used in paint production. According to some reports, 20,000 children are illegally employed to mine it.

Among the 15 trapped miners some might be children and teenagers, like the two cousins of Abdul Alim, who told the BBC that if he is alive it is only because he quit the mine in early December fearing it was too dangerous.

“Rescue operations are still underway,” Fr Giuseppe explained. “There are over 100 men involved, but unfortunately there is no news."

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