The Supreme Court on Friday suggested that the Central government and Lafarge, a French cement maker, share the profits from the company's mining for limestone in Meghalaya with the affected people.

A Forest Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices S.H. Kapadia and Aftab Alam asked the Centre and Lafarge, which extracts limestone for making cement at its plant in Bangladesh, to give their opinion on Monday.

Sterlite model

The direction came after senior advocate and amicus curiae Harish Salve submitted that the Sterlite model of sharing profit with locals, followed in Orissa, should be adopted. “Let's follow the Sterlite model ... the future profit coming from the mining must go to the benefit of the community. They alone should not make money out of it.”

A substantial profit earned from the limestone mining should be used for the welfare of the public by forming a committee with representation of all sections, including the locals, the company and the government, he said.

In 2008, the Supreme Court allowed Sterlite to mine bauxite for its Rs.4,000-crore alumina refinery in Kalahandi district from the ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills of Orissa by paying 5 per cent of the net profit from its mining or Rs. 10 crore, whichever was greater, towards tribal development and environmental safeguards.

Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati said: “We would go through it and come up with a proposal.”

“False promises”

Mr. Salve said the forest around Shella, a village where limestone is mined, was destroyed by the cement company. The whole project, he said, was based on the false promises; even the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment was based on a wrong report. A very low price was being paid for the limestone mined.

The Bench said: “Supply is ok. It cannot be that the difference is not paid. It would come along with the market price.”

However, Mr. Vahanvati requested the Bench to grant permission to the company to resume mining, as it was a matter of relations between two countries. A diplomatic problem would crop up if mining was not allowed since the Indian government committed itself to supplying limestone to Bangladesh.