The Jaintia National Council (JNC) today submitted a memorandum to the Secretary of the Mining and Geology Department, E Kharmalki, regarding what it described as obstacles regarding the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that the state government has laid down for scientific mining.
The SOPs were issued in 2021, specifying guidelines that must be followed so that mining can be legalised in Meghalaya once again. The prevalent rat-hole mining had been banned by the National Green Tribunal in 2014 but scientific mining was meant to help the industry restart, though only a handful of mining licences have so far been issued.
The JNC, which had already submitted a memo regarding this issue to the Chief Minister, today informed Kharmalki that the rule that a mining lease will only be granted to landowners with a minimum of 100 hectares is too high a bar.
“Only a few local coal miners possess the specified area of land,” JNC president Sambormi Lyngdoh said.
The SOPs as they stand deprive small scale coal miners of their rights to engage in business, Lyngdoh added.
Kharmalki reportedly assured the JNC that the matter of the 100 hectare requirement will be discussed between the state government and Ministry of Coal and is likely to be reduced.
The pressure group is also concerned that the government’s rules will open the way for non-tribals to come in and dominate the coal trade as the rules allow for “applicants” to make deals with landowners for the purpose of mining.
Given Meghalaya’s land ownership laws, the landowners would necessarily be tribals but there is no restriction on non-tribal applicants striking deals with local landowners.
“This kind of agreement will take away the rights of the local people, local coal miners and dealers,” the JNC added. Kharmalki promised to forward the JNC’s concern to the Law Department.