The Hindu

Notice to Meghalaya cement plants

- SPECIAL CORRESPOND­ENT

The Meghalaya government has asked the cement companies in the State to pay ₹614 crore for using illegallym­ined coal and evading tax.

Officials in the State could not provide specific data, but at least six private firms have cement plants across the coal and limestone belts of Meghalaya.

A government spokespers­on said a notice was issued to the cement plants after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had in December 2019 submitted a report directing the State government to realise ₹400 per tonne from the cement companies and their power subsidiari­es. A reminder was set to these companies a few days ago.

The NGT also asked the State government to deposit the extracted money for “using illegally-mined coal” in the Meghalaya Environmen­t Protection and Restoratio­n Fund.

The NGT had in April 2014 banned hazardous rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya and set a time limit for transporti­ng the coal already mined till that time. Rat-hole is a term used for constricti­ng tunnels that allow an adult to virtually crawl and scrape coal from the seams underneath.

The tribunal said that the cement companies and their power subsidiari­es had purchased the illegally-mined coal in the name of slate, a non-fuel mineral, to get around the NGT ban on coal extracted from rat-hole mines. The NGT also found the appetite of the cement plants for coal had sustained illegal rat-hole mining the State.

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