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Meghalaya awaits mine order

Shillong, April 21: The Meghalaya government is awaiting the National Green Tribunal order directing it to ensure that rat-hole coal mining is stopped, before resorting to any action.

On Thursday, a bench of the tribunal had ordered a stop to rat-hole mining across the state while admitting an application filed by the All Dimasa Students’ Union (Adsu) and the Dima Hasao district committee. The bench had also warned against illegal transportation of coal, pending further orders.

An official in the state mining department said they were awaiting the order from the tribunal before making any comments, although the print media had highlighted the landmark order. “Right now, any response from the government would be premature. As and when we receive a copy of the order, we will take a decision,” the official said.

He also pointed out that it would be logical for those who are affected by the order to approach the tribunal.

The All Dimasa Students’ Union had moved the tribunal on April 2, blaming that illegal rat-hole mining in Jaintia Hills was polluting the Kopili river and turning its water acidic.

“We are of the considered view that such illegal and unscientific method can never be allowed in the interest of maintaining ecological balance of the country and safety of the employees. It is also brought to the notice of this tribunal that by such illegal mining of coal, neither the government nor the people of the country are benefited. It is only the coal mafias who are getting benefit by following this sort of illegal activities,” the bench had stated in its order.

Although the application was directed at the coal mines in Jaintia Hills, the bench was of the view that if rat-hole mining was practised in other parts of Meghalaya other than Jaintia Hills, it should be put to an end in the interest of people working in the mines, as well as for protection of the environment.

The tribunal had also directed Meghalaya chief secretary W.M.S. Pariat and the director-general of police P.J.P. Hanneman to ensure that rat-hole mining/illegal mining is stopped forthwith throughout the state. It also ordered that any illegal transport of coal should not take place until further orders are passed.

The director-general of police was directed to report to the tribunal about the compliance of the order by the next date of hearing. The tribunal will again hear the matter on May 19.

There are thousands of coal mines spread across the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo hills region of the state. In several of these mines, the usual practice of extracting the “black diamond” is through the unscientific rat-hole method. In the process of extracting coal, many lives have also been lost.

The mining and geology segment, though, is one of the revenue-generating sectors for Meghalaya. For the 2013-14 financial year, upto December last year, 37.61 lakh metric tonnes of coal was produced. The total revenue collected on major minerals upto December last year was Rs 289.14 crore.


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