Coal mining is carried out in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The north east region of India holds reserves of coal, natural gas, oil and limestone; Assam and Meghalaya have large coal deposits.
The north east region of country accounts for a very small fraction of total area under mining leases (only 0.21% in Assam and 0.66% in Meghalaya. The reason is sheer fragility of the region’s ecological profile makes it vulnerable to mining activity.
Coal mining is done in Assam’s hill ranges-Patkai, Tirap and Tikok. In Meghalaya, large number of small mines exists where small quantity of coal is extracted manually. All the minerals are under community control and done 100% manually. The Government open cast mines run by North-Eastern Coalfields Limited (NECL) also extract coal in this region.
In Meghalaya, mainly Tertiary Coal deposits are there which are at the upper part of the tertiary rocks. The total coal deposits in this State are estimated at about 600 million tons, and the largest coal deposit is at district of Jaintia Hills and at present large scale extraction is being carried out.
Nine important coal deposits locations are there in the state, out of which Bapung and Lakadong are the most important. The remaining are : Lumshnong, MalwarMusiang Lamare, Mutang, Sutnga, Jarain Tkentalang, Ioksi and Khliehriat. Roads from Jowai the Headquarter of Jaintia Hills District are almost connected to all mines, 64kms from Shillong. The NH-44 connecting Shillong, Jowai, Badarpur and Silchar leads access to Bapung, Malwar, Mutang, Lumshnong and Lakadong coalfields. Most of the Coal mining is controlled by private companies in the state.
Locally the mining of coal is known by making small pit holes commonly known as Rat Hole Mines, as the mouth opening of the pit is hardly 1mtrs opening through which the miners crawl and excavate coal. These pit holes are 50-100mts deep in length from the opening. The coal is loaded in small wooden barrows, brought outside the pit hole to be loaded onto trucks. Presently coal mining in the region is about 2 million tons per annum.