Illegal coal mining despite ban: CAG report

The Telegraph | Sep 14, 2019

Stark difference between the declared quantity by miners and the assessed quantity

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has contended that there was illegal coal mining in Meghalaya between April 2014 and December 2015 despite a ban on rathole mining by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The CAG, in its report for the year ended March 31, 2018, which was tabled on the last day of the Assembly’s autumn session on Friday, said the NGT’s order on April 17, 2014, was notified by the state government on May 9, 2014. The notification directed the directorate of mineral resources to comply with the order.

It added that the NGT had constituted a committee on August 1, 2014, to assess the quantity of coal extracted before its order and the coal’s location to allow its transportation. As per the assessment of the NGT committee, the total quantity of coal extracted and lying on the surface was 94.04 lakh metric tonnes as on April 17, 2014.

“In almost all districts, there was stark difference between the declared quantity by miners and the assessed quantity. Total excess declaration stood at 40.52 lakh metric tonnes (declared quantity of 134.56 lakh MT minus assessed quantity of 94.04 lakh MT),” the report said.

From eight of 11 districts, there were 7,431 individuals who had declared the quantity of coal available with them. Majority of these individuals were in East Jaiñtia Hills (3,141), West Khasi Hills (2,067), and South West Khasi Hills (1,043).

The largest declaration on available coal was from East Jaiñtia Hills at 63.10 lakh MT but of this, only 37.59 lakh MT were assessed by the committee.

The CAG also noted that the annual coal production in Meghalaya had been around 50-70 lakh MT during the six years preceding the NGT prohibitory orders, based on the mineral transport challans issued by the mining and geology department.

In 2008-09, coal production was around 54.88 lakh MT, while in 2009-10, it was 57.67 lakh MT. In 2010-11 and 2011-12, the production was 69.74 lakh MT and 72.05 lakh MT, respectively. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, the production stood at 56.48 lakh MT and 57.32 lakh MT respectively.

In view of the past six years’ trend of coal production in the state, the report said the coal stock of 94.04 lakh MT as on a particular date (April 17, 2014) was on “higher side”.

“Thus, during the intervening period of the NGT ban (April 2014) and completion of assessment of already extracted coal (January 2015) there was illegal mining of coal in the state,” the CAG reported.

The issue was discussed with the department in the exit meeting held in December 2018 but the department had no comments to offer to the audit observation.

In July, the Supreme Court had allowed coal mining to resume in Meghalaya but ordered that it should be done within the regulatory framework of the MMDR Act, 1957 and the Minerals (Concession) Rules, 1960, besides environmental laws.

The apex court had also observed that the Meghalaya government neither enforced the tribunal’s ban on illegal coal mining in the state since April 2014 nor made serious efforts to save the environment.