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West Bengal Governor visits fire-ravaged mines in Asansol

Special Correspondent

Locals urge him to take up illegal mining with government



Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Kolkata: West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi on Wednesday visited Asansol, where mine fires broke out on January 1, 2008. The blaze has now been controlled. He also went down into a mine.

Mr. Gandhi spent over two hours in the area going first to the Benali coalfields and later to Satgram. The fires first broke out in these two areas before spreading to Nimcha, triggering panic among residents.

An oil pipeline of the Indian Oil Corporation in the vicinity had also caused concern to the IOC and the Eastern Coalfields Ltd. authorities alike.

The fires were reported from mines abandoned since nationalisation. At some places the coal seams from surfaces, where the coal mafia had illegally extracted coal, caught fire while elsewhere, the methane trapped underneath caused fires that rose up to 50 metres high at places.

Sources at the ECL, under whose command area these mines are located, told TheHindu that besides visiting the fire-affected areas the Governor went down into a 125-metre-deep mine ‘Kunustori.’

He went to the nearest working seam and received a first-hand version of the working.

He interacted with the local people who urged him to take up the issue of illegal mining with the government as also issues such as rehabilitation.

Commenting on the mine fires, West Bengal Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb told The Hindu, that the government had suggested to the Centre that it be handed over 27 such abandoned mines where mining activities were found to be unviable by the ECL.

He said these mines would be given to the State-owned Minerals and Metals Trading and Development Corporation, which would run them on the public-private partnership mode using new technology.

Economic activity

Mr. Deb said the mining activities in Purulia, Burdwan and Bankura, though illegal, provide economic activity to 50,000 people who could be employed once the government takes over some of the mines.

“It is a socio- economic problem,” he said.

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