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Deepest Shaft Cave

India’s Deepest Shaft Cave Discovered In Meghalaya

India’s deepest shaft cave Krem Um Ladaw was recently discovered in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. The cave has 105 m deep shaft entrance passage. It was discovered during 28th edition of annual ‘Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Expedition’ that took place in February 2019. Its discovery comes one year after discovery of world’s longest sandstone cave Krem Puri in Mawsynram region of Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district. Overall 2019 expedition explored and mapped 12.3 kms of new cave passage.

Other Findings

  • Krem Puri (24,583 metres) is acknowledged as longest sandstone cave in world. It length has now been further extended by another 459 m to top cave at 25,042 metres.
  • 8 new caves were also explored and mapped including revisit to Krem Shrieh (Tangnub). Krem Shrieh which was earlier explored in 2000 was now extended from 8,713m to 9,844m.
  • Other major caves explored and mapped were Retdung Khur (3724m), Tui Khur Lut (2185m) and Kellung Puk (788m.)


Till date about 1,700 caves and cave locations are known in Meghalaya of which over 1000 have been explored or partially explored. Most of the caves that have been explored and mapped in Meghalaya over last 28 years consists of impressive river cave mixed with massive and often richly decorated relic passage. Krem means cave in Khasi language. Mawsynram is known for its record-breaking rainfall and as wettest place on earth.In Meghalaya ‘Rat-Hole Mining’ is prevalent.

What is rat-hole mining?

  • It involves digging of very small tunnels, usually only 3-4 feet high, which workers (often children) enter and extract coal.
  • The rat-hole mining is broadly of two types – side-cutting and box-cutting.
  • In side-cutting procedure, narrow tunnels are dug on the hill slopes and workers go inside until they find the coal seam.
  • The coal seam in hills of Meghalaya is very thin, less than 2 m in most cases.
  • In the box-cutting type, a rectangular opening is made, varying from 10 to 100 sq m.
  • Through this, a vertical pit, 100 to 400 feet deep, is dug.
  • Once the coal seam is found, rat-hole-sized tunnels are dug horizontally through which workers can extract the coal.

Why is it very prevalent?

  • In Jharkhand, the coal layer is extremely thick, where open-cast mining can be done.
  • But no other method would be economically viable in Meghalaya, where the coal seam is extremely thin.
  • Removal of rocks from the hilly terrain and putting up pillars inside the mine to prevent collapse would be costlier.
  • So despite a ban, rat-hole mining remains the prevalent procedure for coal mining in Meghalaya.
  • Rat-hole mining is the locally developed technique and the most commonly used one.
  • It is not regulated by any law, and coal extraction has been made by unscrupulous elements in a most illegal and unscientific manner.
  • Meghalaya’s annual coal production of nearly 6 million tonnes is mostly said to have come through rat-hole mining.

What are the impacts?

  • Ecology – Rat-hole mining in Meghalaya had caused the water in the Kopili river (flows through Meghalaya and Assam) to turn acidic.
  • The entire roadsides in and around mining areas are used for piling of coal.
  • This is getting to be a major source of air, water and soil pollution.
  • Off road movement of trucks and other vehicles in the area causes further damage to the ecology of the area.
  • Risk to lives – Due to rat-hole mining, during the rainy season, water flood into the mining areas resulting in death of many.
  • If water has seeped into the cave, the worker can enter only after the water is pumped out.

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