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Opposition sees ploy in draft mining policy

Shillong, Nov. 10: Coal mine owners and the Opposition NCP have opposed the proposed draft mining policy of Meghalaya saying it was a government ploy to wrest the mines from individual owners.

Objecting to the implementation of the draft mining policy, the Jaintia hills unit of the Khasi Students’ Union has called a public rally in Jowai on November 17.

NCP president W.R. Kharlukhi said the draft mining policy in its present form is intended to nationalise all the coal and limestone mines in the state where the mine operators will not have any say.

Kharlukhi, hailing from Jaintia hills where there are maximum numbers of coal mines, said according to the unique land tenure system in Meghalaya, the land and whatever minerals underneath belong to the people and not to the government.

He reminded that coal mines in Meghalaya are exempted from the purview of the Coal Mines Nationalisation Act, 1973, as these are owned by individuals and not by the government.

According to Kharlukhi, the draft mining policy in its present form will facilitate the state government to be the ultimate owner of various mines, thus leaving the rightful owners with nothing.

He said the issues related to the ownership of coal mines is bigger than that of uranium mining as coal is a profitable business in the state.

The leader of Opposition and NCP legislator Conrad Sangma said para 5.3 of the draft policy as had been announced, clearly states that the government will have the right to define the status of coal mines in terms of under-utilisation and under-development.

Coal mine owners of Jaintia hills met recently at Khliehriat to discuss the fallout of the proposed mining policy.

The owners who attended the meeting opposed the mining policy on the plea that it would oust the small owners who might not be able to afford scientific mining techniques.

According to them, this would pave the way for the entry of a powerful coal syndicate, comprising lobbies from outside the state which would take over the privately-owned mines, particularly the small and medium ones.

An official with the mining and geology department said the views are welcome and all these would be considered before finalising the mining policy.

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