Coal mine
Representative image of a coal mining site. Photo credit - NewsBlaze

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Monday said that the Union Home Ministry has to take a call on the consent given by the Ministry of Coal to exempt Meghalaya from the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and Coal Mines Nationalization Act, 1973.

“The Home Ministry is the one that has to take this up, and I will be meeting the Home Minister when we visit Delhi for the citizenship bill, and talk about this,” Conrad said.

When pointed out that the Coal Ministry has exempted Meghalaya from purview of the two central laws related to mining, Conrad said, “It is not as simple as that. The Coal Ministry has given its consent, but then this consent requires the actual implementation or exemption to be done by the Home Ministry.”

Conrad said that it was the consent given by the Coal Ministry, but the constitutional power to exempt from it which is under para 12 (a) (b) of the Sixth Schedule, lies with the Home Ministry.

Asked if the present government was aware of this decision taken by the Coal Ministry, Conrad said, “It has been there since 2015, and sadly nothing has been happening from that time. It was something that nobody was made aware of, and it was only after we started digging out all the files and paper works, we come across with this. It is something that has come as a big boost. Earlier in fact we were hoping that the State Government should have moved from that time onwards, but it is quite strange that though from 2015 it came out, but no movement was made.”

“Now that we find this last week, I am going to meet the Centre since this has just come to light. It is also more complicated now and it is not about the Home Ministry alone, as the point lies with the safety of miners and the environment as those aspects also need to be addressed,” Conrad said.

On measures required to be taken to protect the environment even if the laws are exempted, the Chief Minister said, “There are guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment, and Ministry of Mines and Safety. Therefore all acts and guidelines that are there, in order to ensure protection of environment, and to ensure that miners are safe, those cannot be flouted. Whoever applies for mining plan must ensure that all those aspects are incorporated. There is no question of being exempted from those (safety of miners and environment).”

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