Mining policy on anvil: Meghalaya CM

 SHILLONG: After facing flak for not having a mining policy in place in spite of ecological imbalances triggered by unscientific mining in the state, chief minister Mukul Sangma has asserted that his government is taking on board all stakeholders, including small-time miners, to make the mining policy "effective and acceptable" to all.

Coal, limestone and other minerals are mined by private operators and the absence of a regulatory policy for mining has affected the environment to a large extent. Ill equipped labourers, including children, are also engaged in these "rat-hole" mines.

"The government is committed to regulating mining activities through the new policy which would be notified," the CM said. Sangma refuted allegations that he was sitting idle with the file for months without taking a decision.

"Officials from the mining and geology department are working on the policy," he said. The cabinet had a thorough discussion on the matter and referred the matter back to the department for finalization.

Recently, the mining and geology officials had given a presentation to the CM and a group of ministers on the draft mining policy. The state government had reported to the Centre that sources of drinking water supply schemes in the state have had to be shifted due to contamination caused by coal and limestone mining and some major rivers in the Jaintia Hills area have been found to be unfit for human use.

"The acid discharge and rat holes of coal mines pose hazard to the surroundings, including land and water bodies, besides humans," a report of the State Pollution Control Board said. Unscientific coal and limestone mining in Meghalaya, especially in the Jaintia Hills, has already altered the ecological balance of vast tracts of land.

At least 15 miners were trapped to death in a rat-hole coal pit in South Garo Hills district in the first week of July, prompting the National Disaster and Rescue Force personnel to rush to the site in a late rescue mission which did not yield any result.

As per Geological Survey of India estimates, Meghalaya has around 460 million tonnes of high grade sub-bituminous coal with less ash content compared to the coal found in other parts of the country.