The Meghalaya cabinet on Friday approved a proposal made by the Mining and Geology department to exclusively follow up with different ministries of the Centre to ensure that coal mining resumed in the state at the earliest.
The cabinet also stressed on the need to prevail upon the NGT (National Green Tribunal) in its July 7 sitting that it (government) is committed to bring coal mining activity under effective regulations with respect to environment, safety and labour.
"The department has been mandated to exclusively deal on coal-related issues," Chief Minister Mukul Sangma told reporters after a cabinet meeting held here. He said the department is tasked to prevail upon the Centre to exempt the operation part of the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 and Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act in the scheduled areas of the state.
One of the proposals that the state government had adopted was a resolution passed by the state Assembly last year seeking Presidential notification to ensure the operation of the provisions of the central laws related to coal mining is exempted in the state.
Section 3 of the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 which talks about acquisition of rights of owners in respect of coal mines states that the 'right, title and interest of the owners in relation to the coal mines... shall stand transferred to, and shall vest absolutely in the Central government free from all encumbrances.'
However, the Chief Minister said, "By invoking Para 12 A (b) of the Sixth Schedule through a Presidential notification, the state will be exempted from the said acts and its applicability in Meghalaya."
The Chief Minister said his government has suffered directly and indirectly from the ban on extraction and transportation of coal and hence the state Legislative Assembly had last year adopted the resolution. Last year, the government had said the loss incurred due to the ban on coal mining and transportation was about Rs 600 crore.
"The amount was assumptive assessment. We are aware of the fact that many small scale industries in north east dependent on coal from Meghalaya have now closed down," the Chief Minister said. "We will try to convince the NGT to enable the mining of coal once again in the state," he said.
He said the authorities concerned have been asked to assess the remaining already extracted coal lying in different mining areas of the state.