Coal mining to resume in Meghalaya after 9 years: CM


Shillong: Coal mining is set to resume in Meghalaya after nine years, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said on Wednesday.

He said the Union Ministry of Coal has provided approval for mining lease to four license applicants that would lead to the commencement of scientific mining ensuring minimal environmental impact through sustainable and legally compliant extraction procedures.

“In a significant step towards initiating scientific coal mining, the Ministry of Coal had last month provided approval for mining lease to four applicants out of the 17 prospecting license applicants,” Sangma told PTI.

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He said the mining will follow scientific procedures ensuring minimal environmental impact through sustainable and legally compliant extraction procedures.

According to the chief minister, as part of scientific mining, reclamation of coal mining areas and use of advanced technologies such as remote sensing, aerial surveys and 3D modelling would be prioritised and environmental impact would be mitigated significantly.

The National Green Tribunal had in April 2014 imposed a blanket ban on coal mining and transportation of coal in Meghalaya causing a massive blow to the revenue of the state.

As a result, the mining industry suffered a negative growth of (-) 59.36 per cent and the GSDP registered a negative growth of (-) 2.82 per cent, according to the chief minister.

In July 2019, the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance challenged the NGT order following which the Supreme Court upheld the rights of tribal people over the natural resources in their land including coal but upheld the ban on unscientific mining and transportation.

Despite the NGT ban, illegal mining and transportation continued in the state and several cases were filed in various courts including the High Court.

The chief minister in this year’s budget session of the Assembly told the House that around 1,900 criminal cases have been registered for illegal mining and transportation of coal – 1,701 cases for transportation illegally and 203 against illegal mining.

Meanwhile, the Meghalaya High Court has ordered that no coal should be exported to Bangladesh without ascertaining the origin of the coal.

“No coal should be allowed to be exported from any place in the State of Meghalaya to Bangladesh without both the state authorities and the relevant LCS authorities being satisfied as to the origin of the mineral and retaining copies of the documents that may be produced by the intending exporter as to the origin of such material,” a division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee said in an order passed on Tuesday.

The bench while hearing a case has also directed Assam and the Gasuapara Land Custom Station (LCS) authorities to respond to the queries with regard to the huge quantity of coal exported by a company.

Assam authorities have to indicate whether it was possible for the company to purchase that huge quantity of coal from the open markets in Beltola area and whether it was the truth, the court said.

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( With inputs from )

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