The rescue operation for the 41 men who were trapped for 17 days in a collapsed tunnel in India has been successful, thanks to the efforts of "rat miners."

The rescue operation for the 41 men who were trapped for 17 days in a collapsed tunnel in India has been successful, thanks to the efforts of “rat miners.”


After 17 days, a team of 25 rescuers successfully reached and freed 41 men who were trapped in a Himalayan highway tunnel in northern India. Despite previous unsuccessful attempts, the team was able to make a breakthrough and bring the men to safety on Tuesday.

“Manual rat miners” digging by hand. through the huge mound of debris that filled a section of the tunnel during a partial collapse on Nov. 12.

The miners who specialize in the traditional coal mining technique, commonly used in India, known as rat-hole mining, were finally summoned on Monday after multiple unsuccessful efforts over a span of two weeks to rescue the trapped workers with heavy equipment.


Workers known as “rat miners” have begun manually drilling into the debris within the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand state, India on November 27, 2023.


On Monday, a group of 24 individuals known as “rat miners” began manually drilling through a mound of debris in order to create a small passage for the men who were trapped.

Initial observation of the men confined within.


A display displays visuals transmitted by a medical endoscopy camera that was inserted into a pipe and became stuck in a tunnel, trapping 41 workers in India’s Uttarakhand state on November 21, 2023.

ANI, the District Information Officer for Reuters

What does rat-hole mining involve?

Rat-hole mining is a prohibited technique of extracting coal by hand, which involves creating small, vertical tunnels in the ground for miners to enter and retrieve coal.

The miners go down into the mines with the help of ropes or bamboo ladders, without any protective equipment. They use simple tools like pickaxes, shovels, and baskets to extract coal by hand. The tunnels are usually narrow, allowing only one miner to enter at a time. This is why female and child miners, known as rat miners, are often included in the workforce.

According to experts, the technique is harmful to the environment and has been associated with negative impacts such as soil erosion, deforestation, increased acidity in rivers, and disturbance of nearby ecosystems.


On January 31, 2013, in the state of Meghalaya, India, a miner laboriously transports a large amount of damp coal up several hundred feet on wooden planks from the depths of a coal mine shaft near Rimbay village.


The National Green Tribunal in India, a strong court responsible for safeguarding the environment, prohibited rat-hole mining in 2014 due to its harmful effects on the environment and dangerous working conditions. However, this form of mining is still practiced in certain areas of India because there are limited alternative sources of income for the local communities.