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A crore a day loss after abduction

Jorhat, Feb. 19: North Eastern Coalfields (NEC), a subsidiary of the Coal India Ltd, has been incurring a loss of nearly Rs 1 crore daily following the closure of Tikak colliery at Margherita in Tinsukia district bordering Arunachal Pradesh.

The colliery was shut down in January after four workers of a private company engaged there were abducted by suspected Naga militants.

A senior NEC official told The Telegraph today that the Tikak colliery, which was one of the four operational coalfields under the North Eastern Coalfields, was producing nearly 2,000 metric tonnes of coal daily. This translated into Rs 1 crore daily at the rate of Rs 5,000 per tonne minimum price.

“Our coal is of the best quality, known as bituminous coal, and has fetched Rs 6,000 per tonne and more in the e-auction,” the official said.

“The 200 working days translated into a whopping Rs 200 crore for the company annually,” he said.

The official said the target fixed by Coal India Ltd for NEC, was 1 million tonne.

“Till now, nearly 4.5 lakh tonnes have been mined and by the financial year-end in March 2013, we will be able to complete another 1.5 lakh tonnes, taking the total to 6 lakh tonnes, the shortfall being 4 lakh tonnes,” the official said.

Another official said illegal mining and the militant threat was taking a heavy toll on coal mining in the region.

“Contractors are refusing to work in the Tikak open cast mine, near the Patkai Hill range bordering Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, as there is no security to their lives or the lives of the workers under them,” he said, adding that they were under constant threat of extortion and abduction.

“Contractors, during a space of three years, have to pay up to the militants. Moreover, because of the workers who are either slacking or indulging in rampant pilfering of iron rods or equipment, the whole exercise becomes unprofitable in this period,” he said.

These labourers cannot be sacked either for fear of the lives of the contractors.

“If influx is a major threat to the state then influx from Myanmar is as big and the porous border this side poses a bigger threat because of militants as well,” he said.

Sources alleged that thanks to ministers getting a cut from the proceeds of illegal coal mining, this trade was flourishing with the administration not being able to do anything to stop it.

“Time and again has Coal India authorities apprised the Centre regarding this illegal trade but nothing has been done. The state exchequer loses about Rs 25,000 crore by way of taxes annually from the amount of coal which is stolen,” the source said.

Last year, the Tinsukia administration, based on intelligence reports and its own sources, had sent a letter to Dispur stating that militants of the Khaplang faction, along with Maoist rebels, had been supporting illegal coal trade along the inter-state boundary in Tinsukia and Changlang.

The source said negotiations were on with the contractors and the government to reopen the mine, which had been shut down since January 10, the day the workers hired under Brahmaputra Infrastructures LTd, a private company, were abducted.

The four mines operating under NEC are Tikak, Ledo, Tirap, which are open cast mines, and Tipong which is an underground mine. Two other underground mines have been shut down some time ago due to safety reasons.