Three workers of an illegal coal mine at Lido town in Assam’s Tinsukia district were killed after inhaling toxic gas, police said on Monday.
Police said the incident occurred around 11:00 pm on Sunday at a new rat-hole mine located inside a forest area on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. The mine is operated by one David Haseng, a resident of Arunachal Pradesh, who is absconding, they added.
“As per our information, mining in the illegal mine used to take place at night. On Sunday, the workers reached the site around 8:30 pm and started work a couple of hours later,” said Debojit Deuri, Tinsukia superintendent of police (SP).
“The three workers who died were the first to enter the mine. As soon as they entered, they became unconscious after inhaling toxic gas and died soon after,” he added.
The deceased workers were identified as Sahidul Islam and Hussain Ali, natives of Bongaigaon district and Asmat Ali of Goalpara district, police said.
As per the officials aware of the developments, instead of informing authorities about the incident, the other workers and supervisors at the mine dug holes near the mine and buried the dead workers.
Police are yet to ascertain whether the bodies were buried on the Assam side or Arunachal Pradesh.
“We have detained five people, including workers and are questioning them about where the bodies are. Efforts are on to trace the owner and arrest him,” Deuri said.
The SP added that a case under sections 302 (murder), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) and 379 (theft) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered against the owner, and an investigation is underway.
Illegal coal mining takes place in parts of Tinsukia district and authorities keep closing mines as and when they are detected.
“But new ones crop up often and since they are located inside forests, they are not easy to locate immediately. The mine where the workers died was a new one,” the police said.
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