The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to consider the proposals submitted by the Attorney General (AG) G. E. Vahanvati for permitting mining operations by Lafarge mining co. in Meghalaya and take a final decision on revised environmental clearance in two weeks.
As per the proposal, “the company will deposit Rs. 55 crore towards five times of the normal NPV [as recommended by the CEC] with 9 per cent interest A special purpose vehicle [SPV] will be set up in four weeks and the user agency will deposit with the SPV Rs. 90 per tonne of limestone mined from the date on which mining commenced.” The proposal also included certain other conditions to be complied with by the company for carrying out the mining operations.
During the resumed hearing on Monday before a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice Aftab alam, the AG pleaded for lifting the stay on mining operations. Mr. Vahanvati said the matter involved sensitive political and diplomatic issues in view of the international agreements. He said, “it may hurt the relationship with our neighbour, Bangladesh, which is very friendly and co-operative.”
Justice Kapadia told the AG, “we only want compliance of law. Tell me whether without a proper Environment Impact Assessment, you could allow mining.” When Justice Aftab alam wanted to know from the AG whether proper environmental clearance was obtained, the AG replied, “no.”
Senior counsel U. U. Lalit, amicus curiae, in his response to the AG's proposals said no mining should be allowed without the company obtaining environment clearance.”
Fali Nariman, senior counsel, appearing for the company referred to the report of the Task force set up by the MoEF which said, “mining is not having any discernible adverse effect on human health. Samples of water, ambient air quality and stack emissions from crushing units were examined while the mine was in operation and all the parameters were within the prescribed limits. The local population and institutions do not have any problem/grievances with LUMPL [Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited] and they want the mining to be allowed to take place and the government of India to give all clearance needed for the same.” He said the proposals should be accepted and mining be allowed. The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 26.