November 12 was a dreadful day. A tunnel collapse occurred in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, resulting in the entrapment of 41 workers.

The rescue operation, lasting 17 days, involved various government departments, ministries, and private companies, showcasing a massive, coordinated effort.

The initial attempt using an auger drilling machine faced challenges due to damaged equipment and debris. Rat miners, known for their risky digging practices, played a crucial role. Their expertise in navigating tight spaces proved essential in manually clearing debris and creating passages for the trapped labourers. Kala says, “Who could have thought that the banned practice of rat hole mining would come to the rescue of the labourers, especially after sophisticated equipment such as the Auger drilling machine failed to create a rescue assage?”

Read: Rat hole mining: banned practice saves 41 lives from the collapsed Uttarakhand tunnel

Kala emphasises the dangers and illegality of rat mining, citing the National Green Tribunal’s 2014 ban due to unscientific methods, environmental damage, and health risks. He suggests that, while rat mining might not be a solution, these miners could be trained for relief and rescue operations, offering alternative employment opportunities.

Read: Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: Rescue workers achieve breakthrough; end of ordeal for 41 trapped workers

The discussion touches on the need for established procedures in mining, the financial constraints faced by rat miners, and the importance of environmentally friendly techniques. Kala concludes by expressing hope for better training and employment opportunities for rat miners in non-mining sectors, highlighting the challenges and complexities surrounding this issue. Listen in.