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Lafarge suffers further delays to mining operations in India

World Cement,

The Indian environment ministry (MoEF) filed a report which effectively gave Lafarge Surma Cement Ltd the all clear to continue mining on some preconditions. However, India’s Supreme Court refused to accept the MoEf’s report on the grounds that it did not take into consideration certain conditions recommended by an earlier expert committee.

The Nongtrai mine in the North Eastern Indian state of Meghalaya has now had production halted since 5th February 2010. The original production halt was ordered because a local indigenous organisation, the Shella Joint Action Committee, claimed that the deforestation was causing environmental damage and changing rainfall patterns. There were also claims that the mine had illegally infringed on tribal lands, which cannot be transferred to non-tribal individuals or entities under the Indian Constitution.

The Indian Government’s Central Institute for Mining and Fuel Research and National Environment Engineering Research Institute, who comprised the committee, had recommended that a comprehensive bioengineering plan be carried out, as well as periodical assessments of the flora and fauna in the area and a time-bound plan for biodiversity conservation in the area. They also asked Lafarge to implement Surface Miner Technology to reduce the environmental impact of the limestone mining.

The ban is starting to have an impact on the Chhatak Lafarge Surma plant in neighbouring Bangladesh, which the mine feeds by a cross-border 17 km long conveyor belt. The Indian government has told the Supreme Court that the raw material gridlock for the Bangladeshi cement plant is damaging the two countries’ bilateral relationship and is already affecting production at the plant, which is capable of producing 1.5 million tpa of cement.

However, the Supreme Court is not giving in easily, it has said that, “Until the time appropriate reports are submitted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, we are not inclined to accept the report of MoEF and permit the mining.”

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