Shillong, Nov 23 (UNI) The Supreme Court today granted permission to global cement producer, Lafarge, to transport limestones from its mines in Meghalaya to the company's plant in Bangladesh.
A special Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan,Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia heard the Lafarge Mining case and have allowed the mining operations to continue with immediate effect.
The apex court, however, asked the global cement company to determine whether any additional environmental studies need to be done now that it has been determined that the area is forest land.
Lafarge had challenged the order of ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) issued in May this year, asking the company to stop work at quarries on the ground that mining was not permitted in forest areas. Lafarge wanted to transport six lakh tons of limestone, a key input for making cement.
Intriguingly , Lafarge maintained that the company did never claimed that the land was not forest land. ''The local records did not show the land as forest land. Hence, no clearance was sought for mining operations,'' it said.
The MoEF had alleged that the global cement company was flouting environmental norms and extracting limestone from forest land at Phlangkaruh Nongtrai village in East Khasi Hills district without prior permission from the concerned ministry to extract limestone.
It had alleged that the cement company had violated provisions of the Forest Conservation Act 1980. The quarries operated by the Lafarge subsidiary, Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt Ltd in Meghalaya to mine and supply limestone for its 0 million cement plant, at its Surma Cement at Chhatak in Bangladesh, located just 10km away from the quarries across the Indo-Bangla border.
The minerals are sent through a 17 km-long unique cross-border mine to plant conveyor belt. Harish Salve, court-appointed amicus curie, also submitted his suggestions and opinions to the court to allow the mulitinational company to continue with its operations keeping in view the international sensitivities and the cement project, which was already in place.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi raised the issue in the parliament yesterday. Mr Joshi wanted to know the action being contemplated against the assessor (ERMI) which misrepresented the facts in calling the proposed mining area as waste land when it had thick forest ground.
Land owners and environmentalists opposed the mining activities and alleged that Lafarge and other cement companies were fudging production, investment and other figures and misleading both the Centre and the State Governments in this matter.