June 24, 2008

Illegal Coal Mining May Damage Ranchi NH

By Jaideep Deogharia

HAZARIBAG: Danger looms on NH-33 off Ranchi. The road can cave in anytime as several tunnels have been dug beneath the highway near Hesagarha on Mandu Ghati in Hazaribag by illegal coal miners. With thousands of vehicles crossing these points, the road has developed cracks


Apparently, the tunnels have their origin in an open quarry of Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) that was abandoned a few years ago. Illegal miners or coal thieves have been digging these up for years with the result that many of these underground passes pose a significant threat to blacktop road. One of the miners, Jairam Singh, told TOI that a few hundred families depend on this abandoned quarry and have found a rich seam of coal beneath the highway.

"Once we found the layer of coal we understood that the stock will last several months," said Rameshwar Bedia, another miner, without any visible concern for what his activity might lead to. CCL has sought the help of Australian experts and Indian mine planners to find a solution so that road subsidence - at the present rate inevitable - can be prevented.

"In the first phase, we have closed the mouth of the tunnels so that no more coal mining can be done," said R K Saha, CCL director, technical (projects) adding that in the next phase Australian experts are going to bore holes on the road and fill them up with sand or fly ash.

Saha, however, admitted that a detailed study of the extension of the tunnels' dimensions hasn't been carried out.

"It's risky to survey the illegally excavated mines because the roof may cave in any time," he said. Saha also added that Ranchi- based Central Mine Planning and Designing Institute has come up with a Rs 8.5-lakh project in which fly ash from Patratu thermal power station could be used to fill up the tunnels as an interim arrangement.

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