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India's Meghalaya state fined 1B rupees for failure to stop illegal mining

India's environmental court slapped a fine of 1 billion rupees on the Meghalaya state government over its failure to stop illegal coal mining, Press Trust of India reported Jan. 5.

The National Green Tribunal said the state violated a 2014 ban on coal mining, with the majority of 24,000 mines operating without licenses, leases or environmental clearance.

The state government was given two months to pay the fine, which, the tribunal said, can be collected from illegal miners and erring officials.

The penalty comes amid ongoing rescue operations to save at least 15 miners who have been trapped in a 370-foot-deep "rat-hole" pit in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district since Dec. 13, 2018.

According to a Jan. 6 Press Trust of India report, pumps owned by Kirloskar Brothers Ltd. and Coal India Ltd. encountered glitches, derailing efforts to drain the mine's flooded main shaft.

As of Jan. 4, US$1 was equivalent to 69.70 Indian rupees.