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Kohima: Despite coal mining activities taking place, Nagaland has no mechanism in place to check the coal mines, stated a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) 2020-21.

The report, tabled in the recently-concluded state assembly, showed that 44 coal mining units in Nagaland operated without permission. Records revealed that out of 49 coal mining units identified by the Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB), 44 had no authorisation. Three other coal-mining units have been operating without Pollution Control Board’s consent, the report added. 

When the department failed to renew the authorisation of 44 coal mining units, the board responded, saying, “Efforts are being made to take along the defaulting coal mines for renewal of consent. But due to the land ownership system in Nagaland, stringent implementation of rules becomes difficult”.

The coal mining method practised in the state is mostly rat-hole mining, but some districts practise open-cast mining. 

The PAC report said that during oral evidence, the committee also queried why the department failed to renew the authorisation of 44 coal mining units operating in the state. “The Departmental Representative stated that all 44 units were called to renew their authorisation after 1 year, however, they failed to show up for the renewal,” the report stated. 

Having “no mechanism to check the coal mines”, the Department only served notices to the defaulters. The committee observed that due to the lack of a mechanism to check the coal mines, the PAC suggested that the Department of Forest, the Department of Geology and Mining and the Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB) should come together and sort out an effective mechanism to address the issue. 

The committee also sought an update on serving notices to the defaulters and action initiated against them within two months.

Dr Kenei Miachieo, the conservator of forests, Southern Territorial circle, and member secretary of the Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB), told EastMojo the suggestion made by the PAC is “very valid”. “The issue is being discussed at the highest level—the state cabinet and have also been referred to the Advocate General (AG),” he added. 

“Before the mining lease issued by the Geology and mining department, the approval of the environmental impact assessment authority is required,” he said. 

The environment management plan and mine reclamation plan are issued first. When the operator agrees, the lease is given by the Geology and Mining department, after which an authorisation letter is requested from the Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB).

Once the formalities are completed, and the mining lease is issued, the NPCB cannot cancel the lease. Miachieo informed that the authorisation is supposed to be renewed after one year and that it is illegal to operate without authorisation. He said that the practice of open-pit mining is more common in the state.

According to Miachieo, many residents around the mining areas want mining activities to be “stopped”. Besides health hazards, rivers are also polluted due to mining activities and the earth-cutting affects the stability of surrounding areas. A major pollutant, he said that coal mining activities have a bad impact.

As per the department of geology and mining, so far nine Coal Prospecting Licensee (CPL) has been issued—six in Mon, two in Wokha and one in Mokokchung, and two Coal Mining Lease (CML) has been issued—one each in Mon and Mokokchung. The administrative report stated that the department outsourced six mineral check gates in the past year, with three in Mokokchung, two in Mon and one in Longleng. 

The Nagaland State Mineral Development Corporation Ltd report showed that established mineral reserves also comprised of coal with inferred reserve of 1,054 metric tonnes in Tuensang, Mon, Wokha, Longleng and Mokokchung districts alongside petroleum and natural gas, limestone and marble, magnetite and others.

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