After years of an official prohibition on coal mining by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), legal extraction is close at hand with mining licences starting to be granted.
Today, a felicitation programme in recognition of the efforts of the state government to initiate scientific mining in Meghalaya was held here today, attended by Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, Deputy Chief Minister Sniawbhalang Dhar and Sutnga Saipung MLA Santa Mary Shylla. The event also helped the National People’s Party (NPP), which leads the governing coalition, to show off its success in bringing back mining.
The NGT had banned rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya in 2014 due to the environmental pollution, though incidents of illegal mining have carried on in the state since, costing the state revenue and several precious lives through accidents. The government hopes that legalised scientific mining will rejuvenate the economy in coal-rich districts such as East Jaintia Hills as well as boost the state’s tax revenues.
Addressing the gathering today, Sangma said that the start of scientific mining is historic as the ban on mining had far-reaching effects on the lives of the people.
Waxing lyrical, he said that it was the “hardships and the economic difficulties of the people who depended on mining that motivated me to ensure that mining activities are revived in our state.”
Unlike in the rest of the country, mining will still be largely privately driven in Meghalaya and Sangma took credit for getting the central government to agree to this as well as for plans to make mining safe for the people and environment.
He acknowledged the efforts of the civil servants, legal and environmental experts and the miners themselves in coming up with a plan and policy that will allow for coal extraction once again.
Only four miners have been granted licences and leases and Sangma said that the state government will further work with the central government to ensure that others will also be given permission to mine coal again.
Meanwhile, the East Jaintia National Council (EJNC) has sought the intervention of the CM to review the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for granting of prospecting licenses or mining leases for coal in the state.
In a memorandum submitted to Sangma on Friday, the EJNC said, “(We) earnestly request your esteemed office to review the above said office memorandum on the minimum requirement of land for coal mining from 100 hectares to below 100 hectares and an agreement between landowner and applicant, where the applicant is not the owner of the land in question so as to enable the common people to apply a relevant permit for coal mining activity in the state of Meghalaya and East Jaintia Hills in particular.”
According to the EJNC, only large landowners are able to apply for mining licences, which leaves out less wealthy citizens.
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