Indian SC stays limestone mining in Meghalaya
The Indian Supreme Court yesterday restrained the French cement giant Lafarge from carrying out mining of limestone in Meghalaya for its cement plant in Bangladesh saying mining cannot be allowed in the eco-fragile area.
The 255-million dollar Lafarge Surma Cement project at Chhatak, Sunamganj is wholly dependent on the limestones extracted from East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. Limestone is transported from the Indian state to Bangladesh in a 17-km-long conveyor belt.
A special forest bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan stayed the mining activities on the basis of a Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) report.
The report reads the company had been extracting minerals from the land in the forest area.
The Indian environment ministry came to the conclusion that the permission for extracting limestone from the region of Shella village in the East Khasi Hill districts in Meghalaya was allegedly obtained by showing the forestland barren.
"In this eco-fragile area, we will not allow mining," said the bench also comprising justices S H Kapadia and Aftab Alam.
"You [Lafarge] stay it for one month in terms of the MoEF report," the bench said disagreeing with the French company's senior counsel Abhishekh Manu Singhvi and Mukul Rohatgi that the work at the quarries be allowed to continue on payment of amount higher than the net present value of the land.
Senior advocate Harish Salve assisting the court as amicus curiae in the forest matter, and PS Narasimha appearing for the tribes of Shella village, said the company cannot be allowed to continue with the mining activity without the clearance of the MoEF.
The apex court bench said no relief could be granted at this stage, as the allegations are serious. It asked the French company to file an affidavit in response to the report of the MoEF and posted the matter for hearing on March 19.
The forest bench in November 2007 in an interim order had allowed Lafarge to carry out mining activities on condition that it would ensure sustainable development of the people of Meghalaya.
The court order had come on an application by Lafarge seeking permission to operate its crushers and lift stockpiles of the already mined material and remove the same to Bangladesh cement plant.
During the hearing, Harish Salve said the French company had sought permission after violation was detected and it can only take the raw materials for its cement plant in Bangladesh by paying proper customs duty and market price.
When contacted, a spokesperson of Lafarge in Dhaka said they are studying the details of the order and all necessary information will be provided as per the directions of the court - within the stipulated time.