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Rat Hole Mining

Why is it in the news?

  • By using the technique of Rat hole mining, 41 workers trapped inside the collapsed Silkyara-Barkot tunnel in Uttarakhand were rescued.


About Rat hole mining

  • Rat hole mining is a specific method employed for coal extraction, particularly in regions like Meghalaya.
  • Narrow pits are manually dug into the ground, often vertically oriented.
  • Miners, equipped with basic tools, descend into these pits using ropes or bamboo ladders.
  • Coal extraction involves manual labour, with miners using primitive tools such as pickaxes, shovels, and baskets.


Types of Rat Hole Mining

Side Cutting

  • Involves excavating narrow tunnels into hill slopes.
  • Workers enter these openings to locate and extract coal seams.


  • Initiates with a rectangular opening.
  • A vertical pit is then dug, and rat-hole-sized horizontal tunnels are created for extracting coal.


Associated Concerns

  • The mining process can lead to severe environmental degradation, including land degradation and deforestation.
  • Water pollution is also a significant concern.
  • Rat hole mining lacks proper safety measures such as adequate ventilation and safety gear for workers.
  • There’s a heightened risk of accidents, including flooding or collapsing of rat holes, jeopardizing the lives of miners.
  • Due to the small size of the tunnels, rat hole mining often employs children as workers, raising ethical and social concerns.


National Green Tribunal (NGT) Action on Rat Hole Mining

  • The NGT imposed a ban on rat hole mining in 2014 due to its adverse environmental and safety impact. This ban was retained in 2015.
  • In response to the ban, the Meghalaya government appealed to the Supreme Court, presenting a legal challenge to the NGT’s decision.

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