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Illegal coal mines threaten NH 33
Published on 20 Aug. 2009 11:37 PM IST
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In Jharkhand rampant illegal mining business has resulted in a 15-metre wide crater on the National Highway 33 connecting Patna and Ranchi. The inferno in the middle of NH 33 has been blazing for the past 15 days. The road caved-in as there is an illegal coal mine beneath the highway. “The reason for the NH 33 cave-in is illegal mining. The illegal mining has also led to fire,” says NN Sinha, Secretary Road of Government of Jharkhand. As the fire and smoke spread in the mine, villages in the neighbourhood are also being threatened. “The situation is really worse. We have been given two days to vacate the village,” claims SANTOSH KUMAR, a resident of a village near Kuju where NH 33 has caved-in. The Central Coalfield Limited, tasked to control mining in this area, admits it failed. “The National Highway is a national property. This has not happened in one day. IT is all because of illegal mining and this has been going on for many years,” says Central Coalfield Limited CGM RK Saha. As per norms, coal mines have to be filled with sand once the maximum amount of coal is extracted. But the illegal coal mafia does not let mines be filled, and continue digging, to extract whatever little coal remains. Such illegal mining threatens the mine’s structure, which may lead to mine collapsing. According to an estimate, the revenue generated out of illegal coal business in Jharkhand alone is more than Rs 2 crore a day, which is distributed among all concerned officials and the coal mafia. The fire on NH 33 has completely snapped the road link between both the capitals of Bihar Jharkhand. Officials are now trying to douse the fire, while simultaneously building a detour. But as illegal mining continues across this area, the threat of such mishaps in the future still looms large. Mining watchdog is mining boss Illegal mining is ruining some of India’s best forests, but the top Government organisation in charge of preventing this might be directly responsible for it. Documents available exclusively with CNN-IBN reveal that M L Mazumdar, chairperson of the Additional Expert Committee, which looks at approvals of mining projects in the country, is also on the board of directors of four mining companies. Shockingly, all projects applied for by these four mining companies have got approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Mazumdar sits on the board of Uranium Corporation India Ltd, which has had five projects cleared since 2006. RGB Minerals, another company Mazumdar is part of, has had one project cleared. Adhunik Metaliks has had 10 projects cleared. Hindustan Dorr Oliver Ltd, the fourth company, provides services to most mining companies applying to the Ministry for clearance. Environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta, who filed a Right to Information (RTI) application to know how mining companies get environmental clearance, alleges the Ministry has almost a zero-rejection rate for mining projects “When this RTI response came, it is very clear that the mining sector is getting an extremely high level of clearance because those people who should not be there are actually sitting there to decide. The mining industry today decides who should mine or who shouldn’t mine,” alleges Dutta. CNN-IBN tried contacting Majumdar but was told he is abroad and unavailable for comments. The Ministry hasn’t decided whether it should review all projects he has cleared.

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