Miners in dilemma over transportation of coal

Ownership of coal to be decided by SC, a hurdle for coal owners

SHILLONG: Stalemate continues over the transportation of coal even after the Supreme Court allowed the export of extracted coal from October 1. The coal miners and dealers have not started paying royalty since October 1 prior to transporting the extracted coal since they are in a dilemma over the ruling of the Supreme Court related to the ownership of the coal. A coal dealer told The Shillong Times that though the September 21 ruling of the Apex Court had allowed transportation of extracted coal from October 1 till May 31 next year, the portion of the ruling which said that miners will have to refund the amount with interest if it is proved that the extracted coal belongs to the state government is confusing. “How can we start transporting the extracted coal since we will be the losers if the Supreme Court decides in favour of the State government?” the miner said. The coal miners and dealers’ forum is planning to file a petition before the Supreme Court to modify its ruling. Moreover, they will also meet the State government to explain the difficulties being faced by them in transporting the extracted coal. The basis for the observation of the Supreme Court is that earlier on May 15 this year, the NGT bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar had ruled that the entire coal will vest with the State government and that no extracted coal would be allowed to be transported from Meghalaya after May 15 when the State government would take it over and would be free to sell or auction it. However, the Apex Court after hearing the petitioner – Hima Nongstoin Land Owners’ Association which challenged the NGT order to vest the extracted coal with the State government – had observed that the miners will have to keep the accounts “and if, ultimately, it is held that the coal belongs to the State, they will refund the amount with interest. The quantum of interest shall be determined at the time of final hearing.” The Supreme Court also said as per the findings of NGT, the coal is vested with the State on the grounds that it is illegally extracted, but the  matter will be decided during the final hearing. Earlier on October 5, to claim the ownership, the State Coordination Committee of Coal Owners, Miners and Dealers Forum had brought to the notice of NGT the notification issued by the union ministry of finance on June 24, 2010, that coal is mined under the traditional and customary rights vested on the local tribes and that the mines operated by the tribes were not subjected to the provisions of the law that regulates the operation of coal mines.