Quarry nod to French firm

Posted on: July 7, 2011

New Delhi, July 6: The Supreme Court today allowed French company Lafarge to mine limestone in Meghalaya for its cement plant in Bangladesh, noting that local tribals had been quarrying there for generations.

But the top court added that this was “a unique case from the Northeast” and that the verdict was “confined to the facts of this case”.

The court had on February 5 last year stayed the mining on a plea by green groups, who alleged the quarrying was polluting the environment. The petitioners had also claimed that Lafarge had received post-facto permission to mine the area on August 9, 2001.

A five-judge green bench, headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, today upheld a move by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to let the French firm carry on mining in the area.

“Limestone mining (by tribals) has been going on for centuries in the area and… it is an activity which is intertwined with the (local) culture and the unique landholding and tenure system.”

Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt. Ltd has a captive limestone mine on 100 hectares at Phlangkaruh in Nongtrai, in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district. Its entire produce was used for cement production at Lafarge’s factory in Chhatak, Bangladesh, under an agreement between New Delhi and Dhaka. The factory has no source of limestone apart from the Meghalaya mine.

“We are fully satisfied that the natives and the indigenous people of Nongtrai village are fully conscious of their rights and obligations towards clean environment and economic development,” the court said.

“There is ample material on record which bears testimony to the fact of their awareness of ecological concerns, which has been taken into account by the MoEF… we are satisfied with the due diligence exercise undertaken by the MoEF in the matter of forest diversion.”

Source: The Telegraph