After the successful rescue of 41 trapped laborers in Uttarakhand Tunnel, rat-hole mining was the means used to rescue them. A steel pipe was then inserted to extend the partially finished escape path. The team manually dug through the rubble.
But the main question here arises is, why has India banned rat-hole mining? Let’s understand the primary reason behind the ban.
Rat-hole mining in India
In Meghalaya, especially in the West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, and West Khasi Hills, rat-hole mining is a common practice. By hand, miners construct tiny tunnels that are between three and four feet deep, through which they enter to retrieve coal.
Miners must descend down into horizontal tunnels, which are often built with rudimentary equipment, and are thought to be risky.
Due to the narrow tunnels, these miners—who occasionally include women and children—then crawl on their knees through these confined areas while using pickaxes to remove coal.
These kinds of activities often lead to mishaps that, in certain situations, result in fatalities. It puts miners and the environment at serious risk because to things like poor safety precautions, child labour, and environmental harm like soil erosion and deforestation.
An extensive synopsis of the contentious matter and the current lawsuit surrounding it before the National Green Tribunal is given by legal expert Nalini Sharma.
The procedure harms the environment in addition to posing a risk to the miners. Numerous ecological problems, including river acidity, deforestation, soil erosion, and disturbance of regional ecosystems, have been connected to rat-hole mining.
Acid mine drainage (AMD), the acidic runoff from these mines, has proven especially detrimental, lowering biodiversity and deteriorating water quality in the impacted water bodies.
Even rivers that flow into Bangladesh have been impacted by this pollution, which has spread beyond India’s boundaries.
The ban on rat-hole mining was put in place to safeguard worker rights and safety as well as to stop environmental harm. As officials keep a watch on the rat-hole miners used to free the trapped workers.
Numerous studies and publications exposing the labour exploitation—including the use of child labor and ecological degradation linked to rat-hole mining had an impact on the NGT’s decision.
The rat-hole mining in present time in 2023 worked as a Saviour for the 41 trapped laborers in the Uttarkashi tunnel area.