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Mining spoils Neepco tools

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 13.06.11
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Shillong, June 12: Unscientific mining in Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills district has not only affected aquatic life but also eroded Neepco’s coffers.

The acidic water from the mines has corroded the machines that are used for power generation from the Kopili river.

The Kopili flows through Umrangsu in the Dima Hasao (formerly North Cachar Hills) district of Assam bordering Jaintia Hills. The Kopili Hydro Electric Project was the maiden venture of Neepco when it came into existence in 1976. The project generates around 275MW of power.

“The main reason behind the acidic water is the unscientific coal mining in Jaintia Hills,” said Neepco’s newly appointed chairman and managing director P.C. Pankaj, while talking to reporters here yesterday.

He said the acidic water emanating from the coal mines of Jaintia Hills flows into rivulets and rivers before emptying into the Kopili. “This acidic water erodes the machines placed at the Kopili for power generation and the loss runs into crores of rupees.”

The Neepco chief said the machines were being repaired now. “We will also talk to consultants to ensure that the acidic water does not affect the machines.”

Neepco is initiating dialogue with the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board and also the state government to explore ways to put an end to unscientific mining and prevent coal from spilling into rivers, Pankaj said.

Unscientific coal mining in Meghalaya, popularly known as “rat-hole mining”, has become a subject of debate even as the state mining policy, which would streamline mining of minerals, is still in the nascent stage. The drafting process of the policy commenced in 2008.

Rat-hole mining denotes that miners have to go underground to extract coal with locally available equipment.

There are no proper government mechanisms to check the exploitation of minerals in the state. As a result, the surrounding green environment, including rivers, becomes polluted.

Aquatic life in the various rivers in Jaintia Hills has been severely damaged by the acidic water. The numerous cement factories in the district have also added to the slow and steady degeneration of the environment.

Pankaj said the creation of the thermal project in Garo hills would take some more time as the memorandum of agreement with the government was signed only on March 17 this year. “The construction of the project will take two more years as we still have to prepare the detailed project report and other requisites.”

The project in the East Garo Hills was the first ever Meghalaya-specific project after 35 years of its existence here. The Rs 3,000-crore project will come up near Darrugiri.