NGT imposes Rs 100 crore fine on Meghalaya Government for failing to curb illegal mining

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a fine of whopping Rs 100 crore on the Meghalaya government for failing to curb illegal coal mining in the state. A senior advocate, who is assisting the tribunal as an amicus curiae in the matter, said a report of a high-level committee was submitted on January 2 before a bench headed by NGT chairperson A K Goel. The report stated that the majority of the mines in the northeastern state were operating without a lease or license.The NGT ruling comes when the authorities are finding it difficult to rescue the 15 miners, who have been trapped since December 13 in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya as there is no blueprint of the 355-feet well which has a “maze of rat holes”.At least 15 miners are reportedly trapped in the 370 foot-deep illegal coal mine in Lumthari village of East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya since December 13 and all efforts to pump the water out of flooded mine have been in vain.

Key Highlights

  • The green tribunal imposed Rs 100 crore fine on the state government as a “deterrent” and for its “inaction” to curb illegal mining in the northeastern state.
  •  The heard, the state government had admitted that a large number of mines were operating illegally. The amount of the fine will have to be deposited with the Central Pollution Control Board within two months. The green bench in its order made it clear that the amount can be recovered from illegal miners and the officials responsible for operating mines illegally.
  • The NGT had constituted the committee in August 2018 to supervise and look into the issue of the environmental restoration plan and other connected matters in Meghalaya.
  • The committee was constituted during the hearing of the petition which had sought a ban on coal mining in Meghalaya. It had also taken into account some reports of the state pollution control board.
  • The report of the three-member committee, headed by retired Justice B P Kakoti of Gauhati High Court, stated that there were around 24,000 mines in Meghalaya and the majority of them were operating illegally. It had also said not only were there any licenses or leases, but also no environmental clearance for operation of the majority of the coal mines.