New Delhi, July 6 : The Supreme Court today allowed French cement giant Lafarge to mine limestone in the forests of the East Khasi hills in Meghalaya. A special forest bench headed by the Chief Justice S H Kapadia allowed the plea of Lafarge to mine in the forests of Meghalaya.
The apex court also upheld the revised environmental clearances given to Lafarge by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and said, “We are satisfied with the MOEF as it has taken a due diligence exercise.”
The special bench further said there were no reason to go into the two environmental clearances given by the MOEF. The court had on May 10 reserved its judgement after hearing all the parties over the revised environmental clearance given to Lafarge for mining in the forest. The apex court had on February 5, 2010, stopped Lafarge from carrying out limestone mining in Meghalaya for its cement plant, saying mining in the environmentally-sensitive zone could not be allowed.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) had given revised environmental clearance to Lafarge last April on the directions of the Supreme Court after finding the mining project fell in forest land.
People of Shella village, who claim to be in the radius of the mines, are opposing the revised clearance given by the MOEF.
Lafarge is defending its case on the basis of the DFO's report on the project on June 30, 2000, stating that it was waste land and there was no forest there. On April 24, the ministry told the Supreme Court that it had cleared the mining project of Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt Ltd, a sister concern of the French major, with strict riders. The MoEF's revised clearance came after the apex court on April 12 directed it to take a final decision on the 116-hectare limestone mine area in the Khasi Hills Forest area of Meghalaya.
The USD 255 million Lafarge Surma Cement project at Chhatak, in Bangladesh, is wholly dependent on limestone extracted from the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya.
Limestone is transported from the Meghalaya project to Bangladesh via a 17 km-long conveyor belt. PTI