A court-appointed committee has refuted the Meghalaya Government’s estimate of coal extracted before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned the hazardous rat-hole mining in April 2014.
The High Court of Meghalaya had appointed Justice B.P. Katakey, a retired judge of the Gauhati High Court, a year ago to ascertain whether the State government cracked down on illegal coal mining as directed by the Supreme Court and the NGT.
The Meghalaya Government had claimed 32 lakh MT of coal had already been extracted when the NGT ban had kicked in.
“According to my findings, the coal stock is 19 lakh MT at most and not 32 lakh MT as the State government had told the Supreme Court. Of the total stock, three lakh MT has already been transported,” Justice Katakey told journalists in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong.
He said he had sought a drone survey of the inventoried coal. The first report of such a survey is expected soon.
He said he was tasked with ensuring the auction of the extracted coal and transportation of the reassessed inventoried coal to the depots of Coal India Limited.
Former Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader, Mukul M. Sangma, had in October 2020 rubbished the State government’s claim that there are 32 lakh MTs of extracted coal lying across the coal belts in Meghalaya.
Activists in Meghalaya have been criticising the State government for turning a blind eye to illegal mining and transportation of coal despite a ban by the NGT and the Supreme Court. Trucks are often spotted carrying coal but the government has been in denial mode, claiming photos of mining activities or coal-laden trucks are not “proof enough”.
Accidents in coal mines have killed at least 30 people since December 2018 in Meghalaya.