The Telegraph
Monday , June 9 , 2014
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Hearing on mining ban

Shillong, June 8: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) will conduct a hearing here tomorrow amid anxiety among coal traders and labourers following the April 17 interim ban on rat-hole coal mining and transportation.

NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, and NGT expert member Ranjan Chatterjee will hold the hearing at Meghalaya High Court here from 10am.

Apart from the interim ban on coal mining and transportation, the other issues include the allegation about the presence of thousands of child labourers in the coal mines, and the July 6, 2012 incident in South Garo Hills where 15 miners were reportedly trapped in a mine. The special circuit bench of the tribunal’s eastern zone bench will hear these issues.

The tribunal was earlier scheduled to hold the hearing here on June 2. On May 19, the tribunal had refused to provide any immediate relief on the interim order, banning rat-hole coal mining and transportation of coal in the state.

Tomorrow, the Meghalaya government is expected to place before the tribunal the Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012, which it had framed but whose implementation is yet to take place.

However, the same policy has asserted that “small and traditional system of mining by local people in their own land shall not be unnecessarily disturbed”. Besides the government, miners and labourers associations will place their plea before the tribunal with the expectation that the interim ban would be lifted.

However, coal-mining activities come to a halt during monsoons before resumption in autumn. With the promulgation of the interim ban, it has been reported that the coal, which was mined before the ban came into place, is lying in the open in various locations. Some claim that this would be a hazard to the environment. According to estimates by the State Coordination Committee of Coal Miners and Dealers Forum, an umbrella organisation of coalmine owners and dealers, there is approximately 85 lakh tonnes of extracted coal lying in the open.

The April 17 interim ban had created uneasiness in coal-rich Meghalaya, prompting certain groups representing the local traditional institutions to term the ban as “unconstitutional” and “illegal”.

The proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) had last week threatened to call for a 24-hour shutdown beginning from 6pm on Tuesday across the Khasi-Jaintia Hills. The shutdown would depend on tomorrow’s outcome.

It had said if the tribunal is not able to provide employment to those who are affected by the ban, then it should make way for lifting the ban.

On April 17, the tribunal had banned “rat-hole” coal mining and transportation of the mineral in the entire state. The state administration was asked to ensure that the tribunal order was fulfilled.

The tribunal had acted on an application filed by the All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU) and Dima Hasao District Committee (DHDC) from Assam before it on April 2.

The union had contended that illegal rat-hole mining in Jaintia hills was polluting the Kopili river by turning its water acidic. Two survey reports of 2006 and 2010, where pH levels of the Kopili show big differences, were also placed before the tribunal.

Up to December 2013, 37.61 lakh metric tonnes of coal was produced in Meghalaya. The corresponding figure in December 2012 was 34.48 lakh metric tonnes.

The total revenue collected on major minerals, including coal, up to December 2013 was Rs 289.14 crore. Up to December 2012, the revenue collected was Rs 204.71 crore.

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