Shillong: Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said scientific coal mining will soon begin in Meghalaya, with the Centre having approved the leases of four miners.
‘The final stage of the mining plan that was to be submitted is being vetted, and in a matter of weeks or a month or so, we will see this happening on the ground. The process is now at a very advanced stage,” he said.
In April 2014, the National Green Tribunal imposed a blanket ban on coal mining and transportation in the state, following which the mining industry suffered negative growth, thereby affecting the GSDP as a whole.
Apart from the impact on the economy, the ban severely crippled the lives of thousands of people dependent on the mining sector, both directly and indirectly.
Sangma, who also holds the Mining and Geology portfolio, informed that there are a few pressure groups that have asked the government to review and reduce the required area of the mining plan from 100 hectares to a considerable size.
‘We were fighting in the Supreme Court against the NGT ban and then discussing it with the Government of India. All this matters because for us, we wanted the process to start, and that is what is important to us, and when the discussions took place, there were different factors that were put in such as area, technology, etc,” he said.
“While the negotiations were going on, the issue of the area came up. The Government of India was very particular that the number should not go down, and so we felt it was in the greater interest of at least setting the ball rolling and starting the whole thing for mining. Let us not stick to the issue of 100 hectares for now. Let it start, and once things start, in the next stage we can come and discuss the reduction of the area, as the Government of India was not comfortable at that time to reduce that,’ the Chief Minister added.
Therefore, he said, in the interest of making sure that mining started, we went ahead with that. ” I am happy it has worked, and we are at the final stage of getting the mining plan approved, and mining will start,” Sangma said.
Stating that the state government had a lot of difficulties reaching a conclusion as in Meghalaya the land holding system is different, Sangma said, “In other areas, the government owns the land and the mines, and they lease them out to private parties. Here, the private party owns the land, and the government is acting as the agency to lease it out again to another individual to mine it. So the government has to change the rules based on the Meghalaya land holding system, and that is where the complications came out.”
Moreover, he said that the rules that are in place for the rest of the country will not fully apply in Meghalaya because of the land holding system.
“We are now in a stage where we have overcome that, and that is what took a lot of time. But as I said, all the hard work has given us positive results, and I hope even this 100-hectare issue will be resolved,” the Chief Minister said.