The National Green Tribunal on Friday imposed a Rs 100-crore fine on the Meghalaya government for failing to check illegal coal mining in the state, PTI reported. The order comes as operations to rescue 15 miners trapped in an illegal rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills since December 13 is still under way.
A high-level committee had submitted a report to the tribunal – which had imposed a ban on coal mining in 2014 – two days ago. The report said that a majority of mines in the state were operating without a lease or a licence, NDTV reported.
The tribunal said the fine was imposed on the state government as a deterrent and for its inaction to curb illegal mining. It said the fine amount can be recovered from illegal miners and officials who allowed such illegal mining. The fine amount has to be deposited with the Central Pollution Control Board within two months, ANI reported.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court had expressed dissatisfaction with the rescue operation and asked why the Army had not been called in for its support. A day later, the top court asked the Centre and the Meghalaya government to file by January 7 a status report on the steps taken to rescue 15 workers.
The miners were trapped following a blast in the mine. Rescue operations came to a standstill on Tuesday after high-powered pumps being used to draw out water developed technical problems. The entire rescue operation has been marred by poor communication and delayed responses from the government.