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TURA | Aug 18, 2019:

A resident of Williamnagar has penned an open letter to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma raising some very pertinent and thought provoking questions on coal mining issue.

Pillarson D Sangma, a resident of Nokgil Awe area of Williamnagar in East Garo Hills, has questioned the celebration of the state government on the matter stating that the problems for the state of Meghalaya has just begun in the matter of coal. Sangma has also sought answers from the CM on the matter.

The first question raised by Sangma has been the quantity of coal that is apparently lying on the ground, extracted.

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“There is no more than 10 lakh tons of coal that are lying extracted but the government has put forward 32 lakhs. As this coal will now be auctioned by Coal India Limited (CIL) possibly through e-auction, the question is who will buy this coal and how will the government resolve the issue of 22 lakh tonnes of missing coal,” asked Sangma.

According to the resident, the Supreme Court has not really lifted the ban as the ban pertains to unscientific mining (rat holes) and not to legal, scientific mining. He pointed out that even during the NGT ban, legal and scientific mining could have been carried out, but no one was doing scientific mining.

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Welcoming the verdict of the SC for bestowing ownership of land and its minerals, Sangma stated that to mine those minerals, all central acts have to be followed.

“These include the Mines Act – 1952, MMDR Act – 1957 as well as the Mine Concession Rules – 1960 as well as seeking clearance from the environment. This is the same that is applied to non indigenous and the indigenous,” said Sangma.

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The other problem, Sangma said was that now miners have to engage engineers to set up a mining plan along with machineries which are too expensive for small miners. He added that even before mining, exploratory mining needed to be done and there were not enough engineers or professional miners in the state.

Sangma added that the SC order has taken away all powers from the state in terms of mining except for being the watch dog of the Court.

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“You still talk about preparation of a mining plan? Where is the state land? The state government cannot prepare mining plan for the people, so who are you doing it for,” he asked.

Sangma pointed that environment clearance for miners in SGH and WKH, which lie close to the Balpakram National Park (BNP) would have it the worst.

“There can be no mining close to 10 kms (bird’s eye view) around the BNP as no clearances will be given now. In that case, the DFOs of both the Nokrek Biosphere and BNP should be booked for allowing coal mining in these sensitive areas,” he felt.

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Sangma hit out at the CM for taking credit for the reopening of coal adding that any deviation from the SC order would attract Contempt of Court proceedings.

“How could you tell innocent people that mining ban has been lifted? Lifting the ban means coal mining can start immediately. How can you claim credit by saying that the NPP has fulfilled its promise to the people,” questioned Pillarson.

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