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Mill looks for coal options

Silchar July 23: The Cachar paper mill authorities are looking for the alternative sources for coal following the National Green Tribunal’s verdict, which banned the extraction of ash coal from Meghalaya mines from May 19.

A top source in Hindustan Paper Corporation (HPC) at Panchgram, 24km from here, told this reporter last night over phone that the coal requirement of the unit could be met from both Makum, Ledo coal fields, Saraipung coal spreads in Upper Assam, Raniganj and Asansol coal mines in West Bengal even as the corporation would be forced to pay higher prices.

The mill authorities are also seeking tenders from the coal importers in the country.

The HPC unit in Panchgram under Hailakandi district requires around 600 tonnes of coal per day from Meghalaya’s Jowai area to run its boilers attached to the paper churning machines and the turbines of its captive power-generating unit.

HPC sources in Panchgram said the green tribunal of Meghalaya High Court has, however, allowed the mine owners to sell off the already extracted coal. But a hitch has developed over the estimation of the total quantum of coal in the state between the tribunal and the State Co-ordination Committee of Coal Owners, Miners and Dealers Forum. While the tribunal of the state government has estimated 3.4 million metric tonnes, the conglomerate has put it to nine million tonnes.

The case was proffered by a Calcutta-based NGO — Impulse Network and All Dimsasa Students’ Union who alleged before the green bench of Meghalaya High Court presided over by Justice Swatanter Kumar and Ranjan Chattaerjee, a retired chief secretary of Meghalaya government. In the verdict, the bench ticked off “rat-hole” process of “unscientific” coal mining in Meghalaya as “irregular and indiscriminate” and called for a total ban on such widespread mining “as its flow ended up in the rivers, particularly in the Kopili in Dima Hasao district, giving rise to river contamination and spread of such diseases as malaria, skin ailments and TB.

With an annual capacity of one lakh tonnes of writing paper, which has demand in Egypt, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

The senior official of the HPC said the coal crisis in Meghalaya occurred at a time when the unit overcame its three-year crisis in the supply of bamboo with the Mizoram government.