Lafarge is resuming limestone quarrying operations and restarting movement of limestone to its Bangladesh plant this week after more than six months of complete halt at Nongtrai mine in Meghalaya.
“Operations would resume as soon as we receive the certified copy of the Supreme Court’s order granting interim relief to restart operations, pronounced last Friday,” Mr Shivesh Sinha, the Development Director (Asia) of the company, told Business Line from Kuala Lumpur.
He said that operations at the Chhatak cement plant in Sylhet district of Bangladesh, run by Lafarge Surma Cement Ltd, would also get restarted simultaneously on availability of raw material from India. Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Ltd (LUMPL), the operating company for the Indian leg of the cross-border project, started the mine development and constructions work in 2003 after it obtained relevant clearances.
According to Lafarge, no prior approval was taken under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980, as the company relied on the competent authorities to determine the land status.
The District Commissioner of East Khasi Hills in July 1996 and the District Forest Officer in 2001 had certified that the mining area was not a forest. The Khasi Hills District Autonomous Council also confirmed this.
But, in June 2006, the north-east regional office of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) intimated the company that it should obtain clearance under the FCA, 1980 as the mining area could be defined as “forest land” and in April 2007 directed that mining operations should be stopped including the movement of already mined limestone. The company, according to the management, immediately stopped all operations.
The company also submitted an application under the FCA with the State Government on May 3, 2007.
It moved the vacation bench of the Supreme Court in May seeking removal of pithead stockpile and expeditious clearance of the application with the State Government and Central Government.
The apex court has asked the company for some additional information, to be presented before the next hearing.