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NGT imposes Rs 100 crore penalty on coal miners, officials in Meghalaya
Staff Correspondent
 SHILLONG, Jan 6 - The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a penalty of Rs 100 crore on Meghalaya coal miners and officials, who failed to check illegal coal mining in the State.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson, AK Goel passed the order underlining that the penalty amount would be recovered from coal miners and officials who were deputed to stop illegal mining in the State.

The NGT in its order issued on Friday stated that the penalty amount must be deposited within two months with the Central Pollution Control Board. The amount would then be utilised for restoration of the environment.

The NGT had banned the extraction of coal in April, 2014. It was banned after a petition was filed before the Tribunal by the All Dimasa Students’ Union, Dima Hasao arguing that unscientific rat-hole coal mining was destroying the Kopili River with the acidic discharge from the coal mines.

The NGT, however, allowed the coal which was extracted before its order to be transported. Under the guise of “already extracted coal” coal miners in connivance with officials continued to mine coal illegally.

The NGT passed the order after a three-member committee, headed by retired Justice BP Kakoti of Gauhati High Court during its investigation of the coal mines in the State recently found large scale coal mining continuing illegally.

The committee was constituted by the NGT in August 2018 to supervise the mining activities and look at an environmental restoration plan.

Justice Kakoti said after his investigation that he found evidence of freshly mined coal in East Jaintia Hills. It is the same district where social activists Agnes Kharshiing and Amita Sangma were attacked last year allegedly by coal miners for independently investigating the ongoing illegal coal mining.

It’s in East Jaintia Hills again the miners are trapped in the illegal coal mine and efforts to rescue them are on. The rescue team today managed to install pumps into the main mining shaft and three other adjacent shafts. In all, four pumps were deployed.

However, by afternoon the Coal India pump which was made operational only today developed technical snag and was stopped. Similarly, the pumps belonging to Kirloskar Brothers were also stopped due to technical problems.

Officials said that the Navy divers would ascertain the level of water in the coal shafts later.

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