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Fire breaks out in illegal mines threatens Jharkhand highway, Ranchi-Ramgarh-Hazaribagh

The National Highway 33 of Jharkhand may be damaged if an ongoing underground fire further engulfs an abandoned mine of Central Coal Field Ltd (CCL) in Ramgarh district.


 "The fire has reached the national highway which is situated near the closed coal mine," a police officer said. According to CCL authorities, the fire has spread in an area of around 3,000 sq metres.


The fire was detected by local residents last week in the mine near Lohagate of Kuju colliery in Ramgarh, about 70 km from state capital Ranchi.


"The 'rat hole' was made during illegal mining and spontaneous heating of the coal caused the fire. We have started filling the void to stop spread of fire. Safety measures have been adopted," CCL General Manager (Safety) T.B. Mitra told. Though the filling work started Monday, the fire spread further Tuesday.


Coal companies are not allowed to mine around national highways. Illegal mining is the cause of the fire


Mines should be filled in after being closed by the coal companies. The companies say they fill in the mines but illegal miners become active after the mine is closed.


July 1st, 2009 / IANS



Movement of traffic on NH-33 linking Tata-Ranchi-Barhi is likely to come to a grinding halt following a major fire that has broken out in the illegal coal mines beneath the highway near Mandughati in Jharkhand's Ramghar district.


As many as five parallel tunnels have been dug by coal miners illegally connecting either side of the highway. Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) sources said the fire, which broke out almost a week back, had covered an area of about 3000 sq mtrs by Tuesday.


TOI had reported the matter in June last year saying NH-33 may suffer subsidence if illegal mining was not stopped and the tunnels were not filled up. Thousands of trucks and heavy vehicles ply over these tunnels everyday which has resulted in the highway developing cracks, pot holes and blisters


The origin of these tunnel lies inside an open CCL quarry which was abandoned few years ago. The quarry under CCL's Pundi project was no longer viable for the company but for illegal miners the spent coal is sufficient to help them earn a living.


Jairam Singh, a miner, said a few hundred families depend on this abandoned quarry. "Luckily they found very rich seam of coal lying beneath the highway," Singh said.


Blaming the local administration for not checking illegal mining of coal, CCL director technical (Project & ops) TK Nag said the problem had been brought to the notice of state government several times.


"We are concerned about our own mines, not illegal mining," he said. When told that the illegal mines originate from an abandoned CCL project, Nag said CCL general manager posted in Hazaribag had been asked to take stalk of the situation.


"We've proposed to the state government to construct an alternate highway linking two loops of the road. Thereafter, the coal present under the highway could be officially mined out," he said adding that Director General Mine safety (DGMS) norms prevent the CCL to mine near highways. Nag further said the CCL GM had been asked to seek expeditious clearance from the state forest department so that an alternate highway could be constructed. "In larger interest of the public, the forest department should give an early clearance," he said.


Admitting that a CCL proposal in this regard had been received, NH chief engineer (Rannchi roads division) Rajesh Kumar Gupta said the same had been been forwarded to NHAI.


"The said road is supposed to be converted to four lane and we have communicated the matter to the NHAI. They should get in touch with the CCL authorities so that the new four-lane road is not constructed over those tunnels," he said.


Gupta however blamed it over the CCL authorities for having delayed the process of filling up the tunnels beneath NH. "Although the CCL had engaged some Australian agency to carry out scientific filling of the tunnels, the project was never completed because of which the danger of subsidence and fire looms large," he said.


July 2009, TNN

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