Kohima, 1 March (MTNews): Following the tragic death of the six migrant laborers in an explosion at a rat-hole coal mine in Wokha district in January 2024, pressure has been mounting to regulate coal mining in Nagaland leading to a thorough discussion in the assembly today.

Chief Minister Rio informed that ten documents were required for obtaining Coal Mining License (CML) in the State to which MLA Achumbemo Kikon replied that the required conditions were not fulfilled in many parts of the state making illegal mining rampant. He, therefore, called for stringent regulations by the government and advocated for the use of proper scientific mining methods.

This discussion comes at a time when the CAG report has some concerning findings on its failure to effectively address illegal mining activities and the resulting revenue losses.

MLA Achumbemo Kikon highlighted concerning trends in Nagaland’s coal revenue, shedding light on significant drops in income from the state’s coal mining sector. Kikon revealed that the Department reported revenues of Rs 9, 91, 82,730 during 2022-2023, which plummeted to Rs 3, 41, 42,645 in the subsequent fiscal year of 2023-2024.

Deputy Chief Minister TR Zeliang attributed this decline to the inherent challenges posed by Nagaland’s coal, namely its high sulfur content, which diminishes its quality and profitability. Zeliang further explained that a restriction on coal imports imposed by the Ministry of Coal resulted in heightened demand for Nagaland’s coal during 2022-2023, bolstering state revenue.

However, he said, the scenario shifted with the General Election in Bangladesh in January 2024, a significant market for Nagaland’s coal, coupled with the availability of cheaper coal imports from the US and Indonesia. This led to a subsequent decrease in demand for Nagaland coal and a corresponding decline in revenue generation during 2023-2024. Nevertheless, Zeliang expressed optimism, stating expectations of resurgence in demand for Nagaland coal in both domestic and export markets.

Meanwhile, MLA Nuklutoshi pointed out that although 45 licenses have been issued legally, the mining operations are being done illegally and hazardously. He, therefore, suggested bringing in big companies who can ensure proper and ethical mining for the benefit of the people and the state.

Deputy Chief Minister, TR Zeliang reiterated that license holders are prohibited from extracting coal through open cast mining and should follow government guidelines. Any discrepancies will be verified by an expert team and local MLAs will be invited during the verification process, corrective measures then will be taken accordingly, he said. He also mentioned that designated depots are in operation since 2014 and royalty is to be paid through challans while coal is to be transported through transit pass.

Minister of Tourism and Higher Education, Temjen Imna Along suggested the establishment of government authorized depots, issuing of license to capital-backed miners only and advance GST bookings to curb non-repayment of GST and preventing exploitation of people and coal resources in the state. He also suggested the Department initiate capacity building for judicious and maximum profitability of coal mining in the state.

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