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Big Business of Illegal Coal Mining

(By a Special Correspondent) THE recent accident at the Chapa- pur Colliery, in Dhanbad district brought into focus the existence of illegal coalmines in the country. With the price of coal continuously going up and with good quality (ie, low ash content) coal commanding a substantial premium in the market, particularly after it has been cooked in the ovens and turned into hard coke, it has become profitable to work small, abandoned mines. In Dhanbad district, where coal is found very close to the surface, it is very easy to carry on mining on a small scale. Of course these illegal mines may not necessarily be profitable in a normal sense (when all the usual costs are taken into account). But the only cost that the operators of these mines have to bear is that of labour and that too of labour that is paid barely a starvation wage and is held in bondage by poverty and terror. No material costs are incurred as the materials are 'supplied' from the nearby legal mines, whose officials play an important role in this illegal mining. The coal is taken to illegal depots and from there transported by truck to the consumers. Needless to say, the coal is moved with all the necessary official papers.

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