Rat Hole Mining in the East Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya


  • Moolamylliang, a village in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, is making progress in becoming a greener place amid abandoned pits from the rat-hole mining.

Key Details

  • National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned hazardous rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya in April 2014 and set a time limit for transporting the coal already mined till that time.
  • The Jaintia Coal Miners and Dealers’ Association claims there are some 60,000 coal mines across 360 villages in East Jaintia Hills district. 
  • Moolamylliang used to be one such village until the National Green Tribunal’s ban.

Back to Basics

Rat-hole mining

  • It is a primitive and hazardous method of mining for coal, with tunnels that are only 3-4 feet in diameter (hence, rat-hole), leading to pits ranging from 5-100 sq. mt deep. 
  • There are two types of rat-holes: when dug into the ground these are vertical shafts leading to the mines where horizontal tunnels are dug; the second type is where horizontal holes are dug directly in the hillsides to reach coal seams (bed of coal). 
  • The coal is taken out manually, loaded into a bucket or a wheelbarrow and dumped on a nearby un-mined area. From here, it is carried to larger coal dumps near highways for trade and transportation.
  • Rat hole mining cheaper than other conventional mining methods and also hilly geography necessitate such mining method.

Coal reserves:

  • Coal reserves are primarily found in the Eastern India in states of Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and predominantly in North-East regions like Assam and Meghalaya.
  • Despite the presence of coal reserves, commercial mining is not practiced in the North-Eastern regions because of terrain’s unsuitability as well as nature of coal deposits. 
  • Open mining cannot be practiced due to the added difficulties. Further, the coal found in North-East contains lots of sulfur. 
  • This overall reduces the energy efficiency and therefore this type of coal is categorized as bad quality of coal.

Source: The Hindu

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