NGT disposes off coal mining case in Meghalaya; ban on mining to continue
NGT disposes off coal mining case in Meghalaya; ban on mining to continue

By Our Reporter, TNT News | Shillong, Sept 5, 2018: 

Disposing off the coal mining case in Meghalaya, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) maintained the ban on rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya will continue "subject to further orders of the
Supreme Court."

The NGT Principal Bench on August 31 has disposed all pending matters relating to the case filed before the Tribunal in 2012 and 2014, however, maintaining that the ban on rat-hole mining and transportation of the already mined material will continue.

In a communique,  one of the appellants, Lber Laloo said that the fate of coal mining in Meghalaya will depend on the outcome of the case filed by him before the Supreme Court in civil appeal diary no. 3067/2018.

The Tribunal order further stated that the State of Meghalaya will be the receiver/custodian of the
available extracted coal as on date, subject to further orders of the Supreme Court. "If any further coal not so far recorded in the inventory is available, a separate inventory may be made and if it is found that the extraction was illegal, royalty in terms of orders already passed may also be collected," read the order.

The Secretary of Mining and Geology, Central Pollution Control Board and Indian schools of Mines Dhandbad will first determine whether the already extracted coal is a fresh and illegally mined one or the old one which was already extracted but not accounted one and after submitting its report, further action or instruction will be passed on the same.

Laloo also informed that with regards to allowing coal mining in the state and mining policy, mining plan etc, the NGT has pointed out that the issue has already been raised in civil appeal diary no. 3067/2018 and the same will depend on the outcome of the case filed in the Supreme Court.

In relation with the restoration of the environment and rehabilitation of the victims for which funds are available, the Tribunal was of the view that for this task, "it will appropriate that we constitute an independent Committee. This Committee will be headed by Justice B.P. Katoki, Former Judge of the Guwahati High Court with representatives from Central Pollution Control Board and Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad."

GOVERNMENT'S INTERVENTION

Meanwhile, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Wednesday said that the present Government has been trying to its best to resolve the ban on coal mining in the State. "In the past six months, the Government has been trying to bring this issue back on track," Sangma said.

According to the Chief Minister, the ban on coal mining was basically an environmental issue. "It was in the later stage that some other issues crop like ownership of coal, safety of miners and Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR)," he said.

The Chief Minister said that the State Government had several deliberations with the Centre on the ban of coal mining in the State. "The deliberations with the Centre to resolve this issue are on the advance stage. We are very clear in our stand that we will not compromise on the environment and safety aspect of miners," Sangma said.

He said that the State Government at the same time cannot allow the mining to be stopped as it is affecting the livelihood of the people.

According to Chief Minister, there are certain areas which need clarification from both Centre and State.

Stating that it is a big challenge for the State Government to bring all ministries on board on the issue, he informed that the Coal Nationalization policy has been repealed adding that certain provisions of the MMDR act is still applicable.

It may be recalled that Meghalaya Assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution to urge upon the Central government to invoke Para 12 A (b) of the Sixth Schedule through a presidential notification to exempt Meghalaya from the Central laws related to mining which include the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, and the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act.

The NGT had ordered an interim ban on coal mining in April 17, 2014 and had asked the state government to immediately stop illegal rat-hole coal mining. The ban was based on a petition by the All Dimasa Students' Union and the Dima Hasao District Committee, alleging that coal mining in  the state has turned the water of the Kopili River acidic.

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