Shillong, Jan 24: The Opposition Congress in Meghalaya has said that the coal mine accident in East Jaintia Hills district proves that illegal mining continues unabated in the State.

Six miners were killed after a mechanical structure collapsed at an illegal coal mine in the district on Thursday night.

“The coal mine accident confirms that illegal mining continues unabated and the Chief Minister has lied both inside and outside the Assembly,” Leader of Opposition Mukul Sangma said.

“I have visited Jaintia Hills and West Khasi Hills and can provide the exact coordinates where illegal mining is taking place. This incident has shamed Meghalaya and it happened despite the NGT ban on unscientific and unsafe coal mining,” the former chief minister added.

The accident brought back memories of a similar mishap in the district in December 2018 in which 15 miners had lost their lives.

Sangma had last year written to Chief Secretary MS Rao, highlighting the lapses on the administration’s part and also given accounts of what he had seen during his visits to the coal mines.

He had also asked the State government to enforce various sub-sections of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 to punish those involved in illegal mining.

His party colleague and legislator Ampareen Lyngdoh said that the accident raises questions on the Meghalaya government’s claim that no illegal coal mining activity has taken place in the State since the National Green Tribunal ban in 2014.

“The government must explain to the people how this incident happened when illegal mining was not taking place in the State,” she said.

Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui said the government is waiting for the official report of the incident.

“The police is trying to find out the cause although it is said to be the result of crane malfunctioning,” Rymbui said.

The mine manager has fled and all efforts are being made to nab those responsible for the deaths, he said. “The police and the district administration are monitoring the situation and those found flouting the law will be caught and punished,” Rymbui added. – PTI