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Ministry in dark on coal report

Shillong, June 17: The Union ministry of coal was “unaware” of any order or notification granting exemption to coal mining in Meghalaya, a CAG report has stated.

The report for the year that ended on March 31, 2013, which was tabled in the Assembly yesterday, said the activities of the Meghalaya mining and geology department are limited to collection of royalty on export of coal and limestone outside the state.

“This practice is being followed on the basis of a letter from then Union minister of energy in July 1987 (to the then Meghalaya chief minister) stating that the Centre had no desire or intention of disturbing the customary tribal rights,” the report said. Mining activities in Meghalaya are concentrated on coal and limestone, which are the major minerals of the state.

“During the visit of a National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) member to Meghalaya in May 2012, it was brought to his notice that the Meghalaya government was unable to intervene in areas which come under the Sixth Schedule. The commission, after examining the reply, stated that all central acts apply to all Sixth Schedule areas of the state unless there was a presidential notification to that effect,” the report said.

Moreover, the report pointed out that as on July 2013, the department had granted mining leases only in respect of limestone. In respect of mining, not a single mining lease has ever been applied for nor granted by the department.

“Thus, coal mining in the state is in violation of the Mines & Mineral Development & Regulation (MMDR) Act. However, no action had been taken by the department to ascertain the number of miners in the state or to force them to obtain a mining lease as required under the act and the rules,” the report stated.

Further, the directorate of mineral resources, as on February 2013, failed to furnish the list of all the mines in Meghalaya. However, as per records, the directorate has compiled a list of 34 coal mines in East Jaintia Hills and 10 in South Garo Hills.

The CAG had also sought clarification from the Meghalaya principal secretary, mining and geology, and the Union coal ministry in August 2013 as to whether there existed any notification by virtue of which coal miners in the state are exempted from the provisions of the MMDR Act and the rules. “In response, the coal controller, ministry of coal, stated in September 2013 that the ministry was unaware of any order or notification granting exemption to coal mining in Meghalaya. Reply of the state government was awaited (September 2013),” the report pointed out.

It also pointed out that the Meghalaya Minerals Policy, 2012 has introduced various measures to regulate mining in the state, one of which, is to ensure that all miners in the state obtain mining leases. However, even after a lapse of 11 months from the date of notification of the policy, not a single coal miner had obtained mining lease till September 2013.

Limestone mining: The mining and geology department had granted mining leases to 16 applicants for limestone mining between November 1961 and December 2010 for periods ranging between 20 and 30 years, the report said.

As per information furnished by the directorate of mineral resources, the total production of limestone between 2008-09 to 2012-13 was 1.99 crore tonne, out of which, 1.56 crore tonne was extracted by the 16 mining lease holders, the report pointed out.

Thus, the report said, 43 lakh tonne was “unauthorisedly extracted” by miners without obtaining mining lease, and was in violation of the MMDR Act.

Further, it stated that of the 16 mining leases granted, only one lease holder — Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt. Ltd — has obtained clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forest.

“None of the remaining lease holders have obtained clearance from the ministry as stipulated in the conditions set by the controller of mines while approving the mining plan. In fact, the state forest department has no idea as to whether the mining lease areas for which it has issues forest clearance fall within the forest area,” the report stated.