PATNA: Even as Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) succumbed to pressure from power generation plants to resume coal extraction at the Lalmatia mine in Jharkhand, rescue work remained halted for the fourth consecutive day on Monday while there was no trace of the five workers trapped under the debris after the December 29 cave-in.
A halt in coal extraction at Rajmahal Opencast Project of ECL in Godda district following the tragedy, in which 18 miners were confirmed dead, had badly affected coal supply to NTPC plants at power generation at Kahalgaon in Bihar and Farakka in West Bengal. This had posed the danger of many parts of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal plunging in darkness.
While ECL, its outsourcing partner Mahalaxmi Company and the Godda district administration claim a total of 23 people were at work at the site during the cave-in, local people and trade unions insist that more than 100 people were inside the ill-fated mine. Protests by trade unions ended on Sunday evening due to lack of support as most workers believed to have died in the mishap were from other states, said sources.
“There is still no news about my brother, Gagan Singh, who was working at this mine when the accident happened. I do not know if they will resume the search operation so that we could at least have hs body,” said Navneet Singh, a resident of Bhagalpur in Bihar, who is still in Lalmatia. There is uncertainty if his family would get the ex gratia and other government benefits if the body is never found.
ECL’s general manager at Rajmahal, HK Singh, said the PSU’s constant requests to the trade unions’ representatives and others opposing resumption of production at Lalmatia colliery have paid off. “Rescue operation would certainly resume shortly. What was most important was to at the moment ensure power availability to three states,” he said.
The Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) is yet to issue a report regarding the cause of the mishap. Trade union organisations have accused DGMS of not having carried out its duty in ascertaining the exact number of people engaged in work when the mine caved in.