Bhubaneswar: Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL), a unit of state-run Coal India, has shut operations and transportation at seven open cast coal mines in Odisha after violent clashes erupted Friday over job cuts, officials said.

At least three people were injured when more than 1,000 villagers, led by legislator Braja Kishor Pradhan, ransacked the mining offices, forcibly stopped operations at two railway sidings, and clashed with about 300 workers at the mines near Talcher, about 170 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar.

District Superintendent of Police Narasimha Bhola said operations at the sidings stopped since Oct 8 after villagers protested against a contractor for engaging his own workers and denying jobs to them. The villagers were protesting since then.

Trouble started when police took 49 people, including the legislator under preventive detention, into custody and allowed the contractor to resume work at the sidings Thursday.

The protests intensified when the legislator and his supporters, released by the police, went on the rampage Friday and clashed with workers.

The protesters forcibly shut mines, burnt 35 bikes and four multi-utility vehicles before ransacking offices at the mining sites. They also removed a fishplate from the rail track used for coal transportation, Bhola added.

“At least three people from both the sides were injured. They were shifted to the Sriram Chandra Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack for treatment”, he added. “We are trying to sort out the issues as early as possible,” he said.

MCL, with its headquarters in Burla town of Sambalpur district, about 340 km from here, supplies coal to several power companies in south India and Odisha, including the state power utility NTPC (earlier National Thermal Power Corporation), Talcher Thermal Power Station and aluminium maker Nalco.

“NTPC has already shut down two units of its 5X600 mw power plant. If the coal supply did not resume by Saturday, NTPC may have to shut down the remaining units,” company officials said.

Mahanadi Coalfields Chairman A.N. Sahay said the MCL was losing about 30,000 tonnes of coal daily since Oct 8.

Although it managed to transport about 17-18 racks of coal Thursday, it had to halt operations at seven coal mines in the Talcher coal fields Friday due to prevailing law and order situation.

The seven coal mines in Talcher Coal Fields produce two lakh tones of thermal coal daily, he said.