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Mallangkona residents up in arms over iron ore mining in area

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Biplab Kr Dey

Mallangkona, May 27: Residents of Mallangkona in the district of West Khasi Hills have raised serious objections after a company, apparently consisting of residents of the state of Meghalaya, began drilling activities for iron ore in the village of Chual Napram (Werang Abri) under Nonglang sordarship around their area.

Earlier residents of the area were surprised after the operators of the firm reached the village asserting they had permission for prospecting in the area for iron ore. The villagers, led by senior citizens, youth organizations among others, from at least 25 villages of the area, had paid a visit to the site and saw huge drilling machines digging deep into the ground for samples. The last visit to the site was paid on Thursday last week, May 23.

Following the visit, the villagers had asked the prospectors to not drill further as no permissions were taken from them as well as the fact that mining of iron ore in the area could have disastrous consequences on the local environment as well as the water table. Further the drilling was taking place very close to the catchment area that supplied water to all 24 villages of the area.

“When we contacted the prospectors they stated that they had prospecting permission from the state and the mining department. However, other than one village headman, Madan Jira, who provided permission, all the others had not been consulted at all. This is a very serious matter and concerns the entire population living in the area. We told them we would not allow such a transgression on our lands,” said a resident, Enos G Momin.

During the visit, the villagers found that at least 57 meters had been dug into the ground and a huge number of sample boxes (3ft*1ft*4 inches) were stacked on top of each. Various depths (about to 6-7 spots with columns being fitted into the holes made in the ground) showed various colours of stones and mud.

Upon being confronted, the prospectors stated they had permission to do so but initially could not produce documents. They promised to come back another day with all the required permission documents.

This morning, May 27, at about 11:30 AM, a huge number of villagers gathered at the Mallangkona Outpost to discuss the matter with the prospectors. During the meeting, the villagers put forward their objection to the project while pointing out that the local environment would be irreversibly damaged if mining was carried out in the area.

The prospectors later produced a prospecting license which when perused through showed a composite mining license for a period of 50 years. They also had a mining area of 496 hectares of land around the area.

“If mining is carried out in our area for 50 years we will have nothing to live on. Our children will have nothing to live on. The catchment we have for our coming generations will be gone and no matter what they give us in return, we will not get back what we have lost in more than a century. The site of the mining may not even be 200 meters from the site of the mining. So what do you do then,” asked members of the GSU – Aradonga unit, who were also part of the talks.

The prospectors assured that whatever steps were taken, in the future, will be done with consultation with all villagers though the villagers were in no mood to acquiesce. They added that it’s only the first phase of the process and that is why they did not have other documents.

“Once we find what we are looking for, we will take up all other NOCs that are required as well as hold public meetings with all concerned. If there is objection, then we will not proceed further,” added one of the prospectors who came for the meeting held today.

“They may get all the permissions that are required but we will still not allow something like iron ore mining in our area. We care about our flora and fauna as well as the future of our children and our lives. As such we will not allow mining in our lands this way. We urge the state government to look into the matter and ensure our lives are not hampered this way,” added members of the Mallangkona Area Development Organization (MADO).

One of the members of the Mallangkone Youth Multipurpose Society (MYMS) has asserted that despite all the necessary clearances obtained from the state authorities, they will stand firm against the desecration of their lands for the profit of a few.

The villagers have decided that they will write complaints to the various departments as well as the office of the CM, the mining, forest department in the first phase of their agitation. If nothing comes to pass, they will resort to agitating to ensure their future is not put at stake for the sake of a few uncaring individuals.

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