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Mining to open up in Meghalaya

Shillong, Jan. 6: Meghalaya is talking business in the mines and minerals sector with the government deciding to facilitate setting up of joint venture missions in minerals-related projects, though there is no place for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Meghalaya Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012.

In the face of the immense business potential in mining-related activities, the policy pitches for “joint ventures.”

“In the era of globalisation and open markets, joint ventures are an accepted mode for exploration, exploitation and marketing of minerals, including coal. The government will facilitate setting up of joint ventures and a single window agency for screening of mineral-based industries,” states the recently announced policy.

Sources said under the policy, a master plan would be prepared for exploration, exploitation, marketing and other related issues in respect of all the minerals of the state.

Earlier, Meghalaya deputy chief minister Bindo M. Lanong, who is in-charge of the mining and geology department, had said the state had to seek approval from the Centre if it felt the need to open the mining sector to FDI.

The FDI segment had to be excluded from the policy after stakeholders expressed apprehension that minerals would be exhausted quicker than expected if foreign players were allowed to participate in this revenue-generating segment.

The hill state has an estimated coal reserve of around 576.48 million tonnes. The coal is suitable for use as fuel for heat and power generation, in producing iron, steel and gas and to make coke for metallurgical purposes. The state produces around five million tonnes of this black diamond annually.

The major coalfields in the state are West Darrangiri, Siju, Pendengru-Balpakram in the South Garo Hills; Borsora, Langrin and Shallang in the West Khasi Hills; Mawlong-Shella and Sohra in East Khasi Hills and Bapung-Sutnga in East Jaintia Hills.

Apart from coal, the state also has huge deposits of limestone in the southern part of Meghalaya — from Jaintia hills in the east to Garo hills in the west. The total estimated limestone reserves are around 15,100 million tonnes.

The state is also home to uranium, the mineral having significant occurrence in and around Domiasiat and Porkut-Nongjri in the Wahkynshi area of West Khasi Hills.

Minor deposits of glass sand, quartz, feldspar, bauxite, rock phosphate, phosphatic nodules, gypsum, sillimanite and base metals/trace metals have been recorded in different parts of the state.

The policy envisages that the state government would make efforts to set up dry ports equipped with all basic amenities in suitable locations. An optimal depletion rate will be worked out in respect of each mineral keeping in view the state and national resource position and the need for stable and sustained economic growth.

Besides, it will also encourage export of value-added mineral products, and to achieve this, it will promote and organise trade fairs; set up a market intelligence cell under the department of mining and geology to provide and disseminate information about the demand, consumers’ needs, price trends as well as incentives available under the state industrial policy.

Hitherto, coal and limestone have also been exported to neighbouring Bangladesh as this earns valuable foreign exchange. The quantities of coal and limestone exported during 2008-09 were 9.53 lakh tonnes and 18.80 lakh tonnes respectively.

Sources said the government also provided 25 per cent share of royalty on coal and 60 per cent share of royalty on limestone to the autonomous district councils.

Keeping in mind the fact that large areas in the state are ecologically fragile zones, mining operations shall be regulated under the provisions of the existing environmental and forest bio-diversity laws. Apart from the standard tourism that is in place in the state, the policy provides room for promotion of mineral-related tourism with a view to creating awareness, educating the masses and providing employment to the local people. As part of this venture, geological parks will be set up in suitable places.

On policy implementation, the government said it would ensure that all mine owners /developers followed the policy guidelines latest within one year from the date of notification of the policy. An empowered committee, headed by the additional chief secretary, will be constituted to monitor and periodically review the implementation of the State Mines and Mineral Policy, 2012.


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