DIBRUGARH: Despite the ban, the illegal rat-hole mining continues unabated in upper Assam’s Tinsukia district, causing large-scale destruction of the forest.

With muscle power and political backing, the coal mafias are running the illegal coal business in Margherita, Ledo and Lekaphani areas in the Tinsukia district.

The coal mafias are involved in rat-hole mining and extracting maximum coal by engaging miners inside the rat-hole mining.

Sources said there are rampant illegal rat-hole minings in proposed Saleki Reserve Forest, Paharpur, Lalpahar, Aradhara and Jharnabasti under Digboi Forest Division.

Recently, Margherita police busted illegal rat-hole mining in the Namdang colliery and more than seven coal miners were arrested.

Sources said the coal mafias are operating under political patronage and running the illegal coal business in a very organized manner.

“Rat-hole mining is a threat to the ecology. The mining has damaged the environment in the Margherita and its periphery. Most of the coal mafias have political backing and many of them are members of the political party. The Tinsukia district administration has failed to take action against the coal mafias,” said a source.

Sources said some of the coal mafias operating in the area are — Sunil Gurung, Govind Chetri, Satya Borkakoti, Jitu Das, Jeet Borah, B. Ganesh, Zakir Hussain, Bhaskar Choudhury (Baba) and Bikram Singh (Bongo).

Among them, Satya Borkakoti was a former AASU leader and now a BJP member. 

“They used DI Pick Up truck to transport coal from the mining site. They engaged miners to go inside the rat-hole mine to extract coal putting the miners’ lives at risk,” the source told Northeast Now.

Many coal traders in Margherita, Ledo area are involved in illegal mining.

The entire stretch of the Margherita and Ledo area was blessed with abundant natural resources, said an environmental activist. 

Coal is the only natural resource that was found in the area but coal smugglers have destroyed the ecology of the place by carrying out illegal mining activities, he said.  

“The area has lost the greenery due to the illegal coal mining which has been rampant in the area. Last year NEC has halted coal mining in Ledo and Margherita, where rampant illegal mining continued,” said Devojit Moran, an environmentalist.

On December 25, 2020, the Katakey Commission noticed rat-hole mining during a field visit to the forest area adjacent to Namdang colliery, which is included in the proposed Saleki Reserve Forest. Heaps of freshly dug coals were seen in the area and also at the houses of people living in the vicinity.

Avik Chakraborty

Avik Chakraborty is Northeast Now Correspondent in Dibrugarh. He can be reached at: babs8oct@gmail.com