Mining subject to compliance with central laws: CM

SHILLONG: Chief Minister Conrad Sangma informed the Assembly on Wednesday that coal mining will be allowed in the state subject to compliance with provisions of various central laws like Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957, the Mines Act, 1952, Coal Mines Regulation, 2017 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Replying to a question of associate member of UDP and MLA from Mawphlang, SK Sunn who wanted to know whether the National Green Tribunal’s order of 2014 regarding rat hole mining has been lifted, the chief minister said the Supreme Court in its order of July 3 had held that in the event ‘mining operations are undertaken by the tribals or other owners of Hills Districts of Meghalaya in accordance with mining lease obtained from the state of Meghalaya as per the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 and Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, the ban order of the NGT shall not come in its way of carrying mining operations’.
Replying to a supplementary query, Sangma said the government is facing the issue of striking a balance between economics and ecology.
He said the government is looking at the issue of environment and management of natural resources.
He termed the Supreme Court order as very balanced and added that it respected the rights of tribals over land.
He said economic activities should not be carried out in an irresponsible manner.
There should be scientific approach keeping in mind the environmental aspect.
He said the government is looking at ownership of coal as well as compliances that need to be followed.
He said it is important not to mix the two.
Referring to the court ruling, Conrad said the soil and sub-soil belong to the landowners.
Conrad said though the people own the land, the procedure laid down by the government should be adhered to.
Regarding the question on the role of district councils, the chief minister said Sixth Schedule respects that soil and sub-soil belong to the people.
He said the process to start mining is long as the land owners who are planning to mine have to prepare the mining plan with the help of Recognised Qualified Persons.
“Individual has to submit the mining plan to the state government which will then be forwarded to the coal ministry and a central committee will approve the mining plan”, he said.
Replying to a query by Congress MLA Zenith Sangma, Conrad said the state government is suffering from the ban and added that it was on environmental issue, but subsequently other issues of safety of miners and ownership of coal also surfaced.
Zenith pointed out that during a felicitation programme in South Garo Hills, the chief minister had claimed that mining can be carried out and it was a victory for the government.
“The chief minister is saying one thing in the House and another version outside regarding the coal issue”, Zenith said.
However, the chief minister made it clear that it was a victory since the decision was pending for long.
Conrad said in the process of finding a solution, there was confusion as the government had to move from one ministry another, from the Coal Ministry to the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) besides approaching the Ministry of Environment.
He said things were stuck initially but procedures were defined and then things moved in a positive manner.
Commenting on the question of rat hole mining as asked by Congress MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh, Conrad said rat hole mining has been a contentious issue and agencies have questioned the safety of miners.
Conrad said rat hole mining can continue but a technological mechanism can be used. “The mechanism such as a robot rat can also be used”, he said.
Conrad also mentioned about the possibility of tunnel mining as some countries had resorted to this.

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