Meghalaya coal mines

From Global Energy Monitor

The Meghalaya "rat-hole" coal mines are a 5 million ton-per-annum (MTPA) network of previously unregulated hand-mined box mines in the Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya state, India.


The map below shows the location of the "rat-hole" mining area, in the West Jaintia Hills and East Jaintia Hills districts, in Meghalaya state. Deforestation from the mines can clearly be seen. Zooming in closer, one can clearly see the hundreds if not thousands of small mines that are spread across this area.

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Background on Mine

The "rat-hole" coal mines of Jaintia Hills are a vast network of hundreds (likely thousands) of hand-dug box coal mines, mined largely by migrant workers. The mines are typically ten by ten meters, and dozens of meters deep; many are apparently hand-dug. Workers use jerry-rigged ladders or pulleys to descend the box mines, mine coal by hand, and typically carry it out on their backs. Many of the mines are owned by a small group of owners; mine workers are sometimes overseen, sometimes not. Coal traders typically buy the coal from miners, who earn $8-$10 a day, enough to draw migrant workers from Bangladesh and Nepal. Accidents are frequent: five workers died in an accident in December 2013, 15 drowned in a box mine in July 2012, and 40 men were killed in a similar accident in 2002. The waste water from rat-hole mining has severely polluted nearby waterways, especially the Lukha River, making many traditional livelihoods such as farming and fishing difficult if not impossible.[1][2] The use of child labor is also widespread.[3]

Media coverage of the practice increased in the aftermath of the July 2012 accident, and India's National Green Tribunal began investigating the mines, initiating a formal hearing in January 2014. In April 2014, the NGT issued an order halting coal mining in the Jaintia Hills and in two other smaller rat-hole coal mining areas in Meghalaya, accusing state officials of turning a blind eye to enormously dangerous working conditions and widespread environmental damage. State officials and mine owners have applied enormous pressure on the NGT to reverse the ban; the NGT has considered the possibility of allowing the practice to resume under state regulation. Implementation of the ban has apparently been uneven, but has nonetheless had strong economic effects in the region.[1][4][5][6]

Mine Details

  • Sponsor: None (privately owned by several large owners)
  • Location: West Jaintia Hills and East Jaintia Hills districts, Meghalaya state, India
  • Coordinates: 25.35, 92.35 (approximate) (25.25-25.45 N, 92.15-92.55 E)
  • Status: On hold
  • Capacity: 5 MTPA
  • Reserves:
  • In service: Since 1980's
  • Permits: None
  • Coal type:
  • Mining method: Mined by hand in underground box mines
  • Source of financing:

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 Keith Schneider, India’s Treacherous Coal Mines in Meghalaya, Circle of Blue, 15 May 2014.
  2. Michael T. Miller, The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining [documentary film], The Atlantic, 20 Apr. 2015.
  3. Karishma Vyas, The child miners of Meghalaya, Al Jazeera English, 7 Oct. 2013.
  4. Rat-Hole Coal Mining Ban in Meghalaya Hits Bangladesh, NDTV, 13 Jan. 2015.
  5. Bikash Singh, Opposition grows on National Green Tribunal's rat hole mining ban in Meghalaya, Economic Times, 3 May 2014.
  6. Samudra Gupta Kashyap, Indefinite strike in Meghalaya from Tuesday against NGT’s coal mining ban, Indian Express, 22 Sept. 2014.

Related articles

External resources