SHILLONG: Chief Minister Mukul Sangma on Wednesday claimed that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) "did not ban mining of coal but banned only illegal coal mining" in Meghalaya.
Sangma maintained that coal could still be legally mined, with the state-owned Meghalaya Mineral Development Corporation (MMDC) acting as an instrument to regulate mining activities in the state.
The green court had ordered an interim ban on "rat-hole" coal mining in the state since April 17, 2014, after the All Dimasa Students' Union and the Dima Hasao District Committee filed an application before the tribunal, alleging that the water of the Kopili river was turning acidic due to coal mining in the Jaintia Hills.
"The NGT has not banned coal mining but only illegal coal mining," the Chief Minister said in his reply to a Calling Attention raised by suspended Congress legislator Pynshngain N. Syiem in the assembly.
"...Illegal because the mining activities do not conform with the statutory laws pertaining to environment, safety and health aspects. Therefore, all these statutory requirements have to be reflected in the mining plan and place before the NGT," Sangma explained.
Informing the House that the MMDC would act as an "instrument" to provide immediate relief to coal miners, the Chief Minister said: "This instrument (MMDC) will give immediate relief to our miners. The Corporation will also take all the necessary measures to prepare mining plan and in getting various clearances after getting mining lease from the central government."
Moreover, he said the government roped in the MMDC pending the central government invoking Para 12 A(b) of the Sixth Schedule to ensure provisions of the central laws related to coal mining were exempted in Meghalaya.
Allaying fears over the ownership of coal mines, Sangma said: "There is need to be understood with complete clarity that MMDC is empowered by the mandate of a law to be utilised by the government to help people mine their coal which is not available for private miners."
But the MMDC would take all necessary measures to prepare a mining plan and in getting various clearances after getting a mining lease from the central government, he added.
"Mining activities can be done in a very transparent manner by appointing Mine Developer-cum-Operator in a transparent bidding system through national bidding where we can get the best of experts to have scientific mining. Besides, the mine owners will know the actual cost of coal from their respective mines," Sangma explained.