SHILLONG: Meghalaya Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, on Monday told the Meghalaya Assembly that the government is committed to promote scientific, environment friendly and safe coal mining.
The Deputy Chief Minister also said that the present government is committed to protect the rights and interests of indigenous people in respect of their rights over mineral resources.
Replying on a Zero Hour discussion during the Autumn Session of the Assembly, Tynsong said, “Immediately after coming to power, the present government for the first time since the imposition of ban by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014 took up the issue seriously and approached the Supreme Court.”
He said that the State Government while approaching the Supreme Court challenged the order dated, August 31, 2018 passed by the NGT and questioned the order of ban on coal mining in the state and constitution of independent committee to take steps for restoration of environment.
Tynsong told the House that on July 3 this year passed a landmark judgment and recognized rights of the tribal communities over land as well as the sub-surface rights.
He also clarified that in the event of mining operations undertaken by the tribals or other owners of hills districts Meghalaya in accordance with mining lease obtained from the State as per the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 and Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, the ban order of the NGT dated April 17, 2014 shall not come in its way of carrying mining operations.
For granting of mining lease, it is not the State Government which will grant mining lease, but it is the private/community owner of land, who is entitled to grant mining lease for minerals owned by them as per provisions of Chapter V of Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 after obtaining, prior approval of the central government through the State Government.
The private owner/community owner has to make an application to state government and it will authorize the private/community owner to grant the lease subject to compliance by lease holders of all the provisions/conditions of various Acts and Rules.
According to Tynsong, previously the biggest obstacle for coal mining in the state was mandatory allotment of coal blocks/mining lease to a company through auction by competitive bidding under provisions of Section 11 A of MMDR Act, 1957.
“Now, there is no need to follow auction process for coal mining and the land owner is entitled to grant mining leases for coal blocks owned by him subject compliances as required,” the Deputy Chief Minister said.
Tynsong also said that the government will shortly law down steps to be followed for starting scientific, safe and environmentally sound coal mining in the state complying with all statutory Acts and Rules.