Meghalaya Grants Four New Mining Leases After Years-Long Ban

SHILLONG: 2 May 2023 (PTI Source)

On Tuesday, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya declared that the approval of four mining leases by the Central Government will enable the state to commence scientific coal mining.

Sangma added that the government's main focus is to devise a plan for reclaiming the mines after the Central Government approved four mining leases, allowing for scientific coal mining in the state. He stressed the significance of scientific mining and stated that obtaining the mining lease was the main obstacle. With the mining leases now granted, he anticipates the completion of the public hearing, forest clearance, and mining plan approvals within 30 to 45 days.

Sangma also noted that the government has been engaging with various agencies to ensure that there is a fund available for the reclamation of the mines, be it for minor or major minerals. The meeting between the Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) and the Department of Forest and Mining was held to discuss the process of mine reclamation and the way forward for scientific and legal mining to start in the state.

Meghalaya is rich in mineral resources, particularly coal. The coal mining industry has played a significant role in the state's economy, with coal being the largest revenue generator for the state government. However, the mining industry in Meghalaya has been facing a lot of controversies due to illegal and unregulated mining practices that have led to environmental degradation and loss of lives.

In April 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned coal mining in Meghalaya due to the unscientific and unregulated mining practices that had resulted in the degradation of the environment, particularly the water bodies in the region. The ban was lifted in 2019 with a set of regulations in place to govern coal mining operations in the state.

The regulations require the mine owners to obtain permits from the state government, conduct environmental impact assessments, and take measures to reclaim the mined land. The state government has also set up the Meghalaya Environment Protection and Restoration Fund to ensure that the mined-out areas are reclaimed and the environment is restored to its original state.

Despite the regulations, illegal coal mining continues to thrive in Meghalaya, and incidents of coal mine accidents have been reported in the recent past. The state government is working towards promoting scientific and legal mining practices in the state, which will not only help in generating revenue but also ensure environmental sustainability.