SHILLONG, Aug 27 – Despite widespread opposition against unscientific rat-hole mining, Meghalaya’s draft mining policy does not propose to ban such mining practices, instead the draft policy has incorporated clauses asking for safeguards.
Deputy Chief Minister in-charge, Mining and Geology, Bindo M Lanong said, “The draft policy does not propose a blanket ban on rat-hole mining in the State. Instead, the policy insists on having safeguards during such mining practices, for protection of the environment and also the miners themselves,” Lanong said.
Rat-hole mines, as the name suggests, are small burrows dug by miners with rudimentary tools with just enough for one person to crawl in. The miners then scrap the coal from the mines going hundreds of metres inside in due course of time.
The mines are subsequently left open after the entire coal is excavated from the cavity leading to water (rain and external sources) entering into it and then seeping out of such mines with acidic contents and polluting nearby water sources. Some of the major rivers of Jaintia Hill districts have been contaminated with acidic contents, due to such unscientific practices.
Lanong, however, said that now the rat-hole must be covered once the coal is extracted, as per the draft mining policy. He further said that these mines must have a separate entry and an exit point, a deviation from the present practices of having a single entry-exit point.
“We have done our work and are waiting for the final approval of the Cabinet,” Lanong said. Chief Minister, Mukul Sangma, earlier said that the draft mining policy has “some issues” that needs to be ironed out for final approval of the Cabinet.
One of the key issues, sources said, is allowing Foreign Direct Investment in the mining sector of the State. The powerful State miners’ lobby is against this decision, saying that entry of multinational mining companies would put them out of business. “FDI has not been done away with, but we would not encourage FDI at the cost of local miners. We want both FDI and local miners working side by side,” Lanong stated.