The bodies of six migrant workers from Assam were recovered Friday from deep inside a 150-foot pit at an illegally operated coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills - the same district in which over a dozen men disappeared inside an illegal rat-hole mine after it collapsed in December 2018.
A case has been filed against the owner and manager of the illegal mine, both of whom are on the run, the state police said in a statement released late this evening.
"... prima facie it seems that a machine at the mining area had malfunctioned, which may have unfortunately led to the untimely demise of the six persons. A criminal case has already been registered... investigation of the case is in progress to establish the whereabouts of the mine owner and the manager of the mine..." GK Iangrai, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, said.
The National Green Tribunal banned coal mining in Meghalaya in 2014 after concerns raised by scientists and environmentalists.
However, illegal mining remains a problem for the authorities, and accidents at these illegally-run mining sites often lead to tragedies like today.
In the December 2018 incident 15 men were trapped after water flooded the mine shaft. Only two bodies were recovered after a months-long operation.
Nevertheless, till today freshly-cut blocks of coal can often be seen being ferried on the back of open trucks running on the state's highways.
Meghalaya has an estimated 5,000 illegal rat-hole mines, mostly in East Jaintia hills. After coal mining was banned in 2014, there was a slowdown in economic activities by 70 per cent.