What do you think happened at Lalmatia?
There were repeated warnings at the Lalmatia mines, but I am sorry to say that appropriate actions were not taken by the mine operators.
Were the signs of a disaster evident?
Of course they were. There were warning signs near the dump for mining refuse. These dumps were frequently shifted and there were cracks on the ground at the dumping site.
It is said that the mine operators were taking measures to do ‘benching of the overburden’, which was a safety measure.
Yes, but these signs were evident from very early on. We had asked them to observe a number of safety steps, including benching of the overburden, months ago. By the time it was being done, the dumps of mining refuse were more than 80 metres high and should have been left untouched. The place is still very dangerous and further slides are likely.
What kind of investigation is the DGMS carrying out for this tragedy?
We are conducting what is called a statutory inquiry under the provisions of the Mines Act. Our deputy director general and other senior officials are part of the investigation. The findings will tell us the causes and circumstances that led to the accident. If any negligence is found, a case is registered and prosecution is moved in a court of law.
A number of accidents have occurred in coal mines in 2016—most of them in opencast mines that are considered safer than underground ones.
The pressures of production and exposures of a number of people and machinery engaged in mining operations during a shift are increasing, resulting in such disasters. A fresh approach towards mine safety is the need of the hour for all mining operators. We had been pursuing them for this for the last decade or so with very limited success.