SHILLONG, Jan 23 – Meghalaya has decided to do away with a clause in the draft mining policy that “encourages foreign direct investment” in the mining sector.
“Foreign direct investment and technology by overseas corporate bodies and NRIs would be encouraged for mining, exploration, value addition in mineral sectors and environment protection as per the Government of India policy,” the draft mining policy notified in September 24, 2009 said.
But owing to opposition from local miners – especially those engaged in coal mining – the government has put the draft policy in cold storage. The government after notifying the policy invited stakeholders, environmentalists, NGOs and experts for their inputs on the policy.
The coal miners immediately put their foot down, stating foreign direct investment would put them out of business and wanted the government to do away with such a policy.
Deputy Chief Minister, Bindo Lanong and Minister in-charge Mining and Geology said the government after two rounds of talks with all the stakeholders, NGOs, and experts finally decided to do away with foreign direct investment clause. He said, the government would “no longer encourage foreign companies to invest” in this sector.
The State has a total coal reserve of 640 million tonnes, besides 5,000 million tonnes of limestone reserves and other minerals like uranium.
The government earlier, while drafting the policy said foreign direct investment would help streamline the mining sector in terms of environment protection and introduction of new technology in the State where mining is done in an unscientific manner.
Asked if the decision was retrogressive to discourage foreign companies, Lanong said: “the decision was not to encourage, but there was no bar on foreign companies to enter in the sector.”
Now, it’s not certain how the decision to discourage foreign direct investment would affect French cement giant already engaged in Limestone mining in Shella and Nongtrai in East Khasi Hills district and sending it to its cement plant in Chattak, Bangladesh.
The company also proposes to set up a Rs 1,000 crore Greenfield integrated cement plant having a capacity of 1.1 million tonnes in Jaintia Hills district.
“The State Government cannot take decisions alone. There are a host of agencies and the Central Government who would all have a say in the matter,” Lanong said when asked about Lafarge.
Meanwhile, Lanong said the new draft mining policy would soon be taken up in the Cabinet for approval.