New Delhi, Oct. 8 -- : Sometime in the afternoon on September 29, the Lilagar river, usually a calm tributary of the Mahanadi but at the time in spate for days following heavy monsoon rains, changed course and broke through an embankment to flood a Coal India mine in Chhattisgarh's Dipka. It inundated open pits, submerging heavy machinery, and knocking out operations that will take at least a month to normalise.

Started in 1976 and run by Coal India subsidiary Southern Eastern Coal Fields (SECL), the Dipka mine contributes around 5% of Coal India's output. Questions are now being raised about how the mine was allowed to expand close to a river, and has renewed concerns over several similar projects in the state, the chief among which are K...