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Workers Blame Rajasthan Mine Mishap on Lack of Maintenance of Equipment

The collapse of a lift inside Kolihan copper mine killed one person and grievously injured 14 persons.
Ambulances outside Kolihan copper mine in Rajasthan where 15 people were trapped. Photo: X (Twitter)/@airnewsalerts

New Delhi: A senior vigilance official of the Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL) died after a lift collapsed at the Kolihan mine in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district late on Tuesday, May 14 night. A total of 15 persons were trapped inside the mine, including the deceased official. They were pulled out of the mine in a rescue operation that stretched over Tuesday night and continued till Wednesday noon.

The deceased official, Upendra Pandey, was serving as the chief vigilance officer at HCL and was part of a vigilance team from Kolkata inspecting the mine when the lift crashed at around 577 metres.

The trapped persons were pulled out of the mine in batches. First, three officials were rescued and were sent to SMS Hospital in Jaipur and were reported to have suffered multiple fractures and injuries, especially in the legs. In the second round, five people were pulled out, and the remaining were rescued in the third round following a hectic overnight operation.

Among those who were trapped were Khetri Copper Complex unit head G.D. Gupta and Kolihan mine’s deputy general Manager AK Sharma. A journalist who had entered the mine as a photographer with the vigilance team was also trapped.

Taking cognisance of the tragedy, Rajasthan chief minister Bhajanlal Sharma said, “Information was received about the accident caused by the breakage of the lift rope in the Kolihan mine of Hindustan Copper Limited in Khetri, Jhunjhunu. The concerned officials have been instructed to immediately reach the spot and speed up the relief and rescue operations and provide all possible help and health facilities to the affected.”

Mines secretary in the Union government, V.L. Kantha Rao, said an inquiry will be ordered into the incident. “I had been in the same lift a few months back. It was all good… we will get an inquiry done and find out what happened,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.

A mine worker involved in the rescue operation, who spoke to the Indian Express, said, “There are a set of stairs through which we were able to get to them. But they were so steep that it wasn’t possible to carry the injured people upstairs. So, some of us went downstairs one by one. We attached ropes to all four sides of the stretchers and tied the injured persons to it. People on the surface then pulled it out.”

Y.R. Meena, assistant general manager of HCL, who was among the trapped, suffered injuries in his leg and is currently undergoing treatment at KCC Hospital, said, “When we fell, it was a shock to us and all of us were breathless. We felt hope when some rescuers came down the stairs. A lot of us were injured and unable to move. I have not received any serious injuries, so I decided to stay at KCC. I am hopeful the others are fine.”

District chief of Hind Mazdoor Sabha Ravindra Kumar said most of the equipment at the mines need upgrading. “We have received information that on Monday the lift collapsed at 20 feet but no one was hurt in that incident. If the administration knew about such an incident, they should have acted and stopped the work. Most of the equipment in the mines need upgrading. We have relatives, family members and friends who still work in the mines and go inside every day.” e lift collapse at the copper mine had trapped 15 persons, including the vigilance team. Other 14 officials who were trapped have been rescued.

A union leader alleged that a similar lift accident happened at the mine on Monday. Some mine workers at the site alleged negligence on the part of officials in maintaining mining equipment.

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