Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Tuesday said that divers of Indian Navy, who are engaged in search and rescue operation at an illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district, have spotted two bodies.
At least five miners were trapped inside the coal mine in Sutnga Elaka since May 30. The mine was flooded after a dynamite explosion.
“We have received a preliminary report that they have spotted two bodies but it is yet to be confirmed in writing,” Mr Sangma said on Tuesday.
Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and various state agencies too were involved in the operations and had waited for the water level to come down to about 10 meters in the 152-metre deep pit.
Police have arrested the owner of the coal mine and charged him for violation of the green court’s order banning unscientific mining and transportation of coal.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had in 2014 imposed a blanket ban on rat-hole coal mining across the state. But still, illegal mining is taking place in the state in violation of the order, officials said.
Meghalaya is estimated to have coal deposits of about 560 million tonnes.
The indiscriminate and unscientific mining, absence of post-mining treatment and management of the mined areas are making the fragile ecosystems more vulnerable to environmental degradation, according to the NGT.
This is the second mining incident taking place in East Jaintia Hills district, infamous for its illegal ‘rat hole’ coal mines, this year.
Six people had been killed while working inside a coal mine in the district in January.
In 2018, East Jaintia Hills made headlines when 15 miners from Assam had died inside in an abandoned coal mine.