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Unregulated coal mining in Nagaland raises environmental concerns

Reported by

Emilo Yanthan

Legal Review by

Anmol Gupta

Edited by

Anupa Sagar Kujur

Updated by

Published on

May 19, 2024

May 30, 2024

Edited on

May 19, 2024

State

Nagaland

Sector

Mining

People Affected by Conflict

29051

Households Affected by Conflict

6052

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

ha

Starting Year

2024

Location of Conflict

Wokha

Mokokchung, Longleng, Tuensang, Mon, Ruchanyan, Tuli

Wokha, Mokokchung, Longleng, Tuensang and Mon

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Coal Mining

Land Conflict Summary

On 25 January 2024, six persons were killed and four were injured in an accident at an illegal rat-hole coal mine being operated in Ruchanyan village under Wokha district in Nagaland.

According to the State Geology and Mining Department, the accident was allegedly caused by fire and explosion of methane gas. The department further said that the records showed that the mine had no proper clearances from the department. The incident once again brought to light the rampant illegal mining activities taking place in the northeastern state.

Officially, there are 45 licensed coal mining operators in Wokha, Mokokchung, Longleng, Tuensang and Mon, but there have been reports of other illegal coal mines being operated in the region.

Unabated coal mining activities in the state have significantly impacted the environment. The Tuli area is one such area purportedly facing an environmental crisis due to unregulated mining operations as coal dust and chemicals from these mines flow unchecked into streams and rivers, polluting water used by villagers in the area. Arkakong MLA Nuklutoshi also disclosed that in Mokokchung district, 50 percent of Milak River is contaminated and there are no fish, and portion of Dikhu River is also contaminated due to illegal coal mining.

According to information provided by the Geology and Mining Department of Nagaland, there are 492.68 million tonnes of coal reserves in the state. However, these resources are fragmented and dispersed across numerous small pockets, spanning a vast geographical area. As a result, the government began issuing small pocket deposit licences (SPDL) to individual landowners for rat-hole mining under its coal mining policy.

Acknowledging the presence of illegal mines in the state, Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio, who is also the minister in charge of Geology and Mining said in the State Assembly that the unique land holding system in the state makes accounting difficult for such mines.

In Nagaland, the land tenure system differs significantly, with land belonging to the people and governed by the traditional and customary laws of each tribe. This arrangement has led to coal mining operations being undertaken by community or individual landowners, who hold mining leases or licenses, while the government's role is primarily limited to royalty collection. Officials assert that many individuals forego obtaining licenses, as they perceive their land as theirs to utilise as they see fit. 

Nagaland CM further stated that the illegal coal mining operations have to be regulated by the state government even as the land is owned by the people as per Article 371(A). Rio added, “Contractors and businesspersons conducting mining activities should bear the responsibility for land reclamation by filling up the rat-hole mines and planting trees rather than leaving it barren.”

Dr Kenyelo Rengma, the head of the state's geological wing, explained that since the open cast mining, which is the safe mode of mining, is too costly, local coal miners go for rat-hole mining, which is allowed for licence holders.

The state’s coal policy notified in 2006 and amended in 2014 states, “These rampant and illegal mining activities have resulted in various types of accidents, health hazards, ecological and environmental degradation; besides loss of coal resource and leakages through process exits have caused substantial State Revenue loss.”

The CM additionally remarked that the government has been spearheading campaigns in collaboration with stakeholders and village councils to raise awareness and educate the populace about the adverse environmental impacts of illegal coal mining activities.

Meanwhile, Deputy CM Zeliang added, “Residents in coal-bearing areas depend on illegal mining for sustenance and they need to be educated on the adverse effects of such activities.” 

Fact Sheet

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Opposition against environmental degradation

Demand to cancel the project

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest

What was the action taken by the police?

How many people did the police detain or arrest?

What is the current status of the detained/accused persons?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

If any arrests took place, were the accused persons produced before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest?

If the accused was not produced before a magistrate within 24 hours, or not produced at all, what were the reasons?

Legislation under which the accused was charged

Was the accused person informed of their right to legal representation? Did the accused person have access to legal aid?

In cases where the accused person approached the court for bail, was bail granted?

Why was bail granted or rejected? If granted, what were the bail conditions and quantum of bail?

Were there any other notable irregularities that took place, or other significant details?

Details of sources (names of accused, names and numbers of any lawyers, names of any police officers contacted)

Status of Project

Original Project Deadline

Whether the Project has been Delayed

Significance of Land to Land Owners/Users

Other Natural Resource extraction/dependence, Other environmental services

Whether the project was stalled due to land conflict

Source/Reference

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Legal Data

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Mines Act, 1952
Section 16 [Owner or manager of a mine to give notice to the district magistrate and Chief Inspector, Indian Bureau of Mines at least a month prior to commencement of any mining operation.] Section 75 [Chief Inspector or district magistrate to initiate prosecution against any owner/ manager of mines.
Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957
Section 4 [No person shall undertake any mining operations in any area except under a mining lease granted under the Act] Section 21 [Whenever anyone raises or transports minerals without lawful authority as under this act, tools or transport used for such activity can be seized by government authorities. State government may recover illegally taken minerals.]
Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006
Section 24 [No person shall knowingly cause any polluting matter to be discharged into any stream or well or on land] Section 25 [No person, without prior consent of State Pollution Control Board, to establish any industry which is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluent into water body]
Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
Section 24 [No person shall knowingly cause any polluting matter to be discharged into any stream or well or on land] Section 25 [No person, without prior consent of State Pollution Control Board, to establish any industry which is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluent into water body]
  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  2. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  3. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  4. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  5. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  6. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  7. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

No

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Violation of environmental laws

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

No items found.

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Additional Information

Nature of Protest

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Nagaland Geology and Mining Department

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Information on the use of criminal law

What was the action taken by the police?

How many people did the police detain or arrest?

What is the current status of the detained/accused persons?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

If any arrests took place, were the accused persons produced before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest?

If the accused was not produced before a magistrate within 24 hours, or not produced at all, what were the reasons?

Legislation under which the accused was charged

Was the accused person informed of their right to legal representation? Did the accused person have access to legal aid?

In cases where the accused person approached the court for bail, was bail granted?

Why was bail granted or rejected? If granted, what were the bail conditions and quantum of bail?

Were there any other notable irregularities that took place, or other significant details?

Resources

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Images

Image Credit:  

Image Credit:  

Video

North East 8

On 25 January 2024, six persons were killed and four were injured in an accident at an illegal rat-hole coal mine being operated in Ruchanyan village under Wokha district in Nagaland.

According to the State Geology and Mining Department, the accident was allegedly caused by fire and explosion of methane gas. The department further said that the records showed that the mine had no proper clearances from the department. The incident once again brought to light the rampant illegal mining activities taking place in the northeastern state.

Officially, there are 45 licensed coal mining operators in Wokha, Mokokchung, Longleng, Tuensang and Mon, but there have been reports of other illegal coal mines being operated in the region.

Unabated coal mining activities in the state have significantly impacted the environment. The Tuli area is one such area purportedly facing an environmental crisis due to unregulated mining operations as coal dust and chemicals from these mines flow unchecked into streams and rivers, polluting water used by villagers in the area. Arkakong MLA Nuklutoshi also disclosed that in Mokokchung district, 50 percent of Milak River is contaminated and there are no fish, and portion of Dikhu River is also contaminated due to illegal coal mining.

According to information provided by the Geology and Mining Department of Nagaland, there are 492.68 million tonnes of coal reserves in the state. However, these resources are fragmented and dispersed across numerous small pockets, spanning a vast geographical area. As a result, the government began issuing small pocket deposit licences (SPDL) to individual landowners for rat-hole mining under its coal mining policy.

Acknowledging the presence of illegal mines in the state, Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio, who is also the minister in charge of Geology and Mining said in the State Assembly that the unique land holding system in the state makes accounting difficult for such mines.

In Nagaland, the land tenure system differs significantly, with land belonging to the people and governed by the traditional and customary laws of each tribe. This arrangement has led to coal mining operations being undertaken by community or individual landowners, who hold mining leases or licenses, while the government's role is primarily limited to royalty collection. Officials assert that many individuals forego obtaining licenses, as they perceive their land as theirs to utilise as they see fit. 

Nagaland CM further stated that the illegal coal mining operations have to be regulated by the state government even as the land is owned by the people as per Article 371(A). Rio added, “Contractors and businesspersons conducting mining activities should bear the responsibility for land reclamation by filling up the rat-hole mines and planting trees rather than leaving it barren.”

Dr Kenyelo Rengma, the head of the state's geological wing, explained that since the open cast mining, which is the safe mode of mining, is too costly, local coal miners go for rat-hole mining, which is allowed for licence holders.

The state’s coal policy notified in 2006 and amended in 2014 states, “These rampant and illegal mining activities have resulted in various types of accidents, health hazards, ecological and environmental degradation; besides loss of coal resource and leakages through process exits have caused substantial State Revenue loss.”

The CM additionally remarked that the government has been spearheading campaigns in collaboration with stakeholders and village councils to raise awareness and educate the populace about the adverse environmental impacts of illegal coal mining activities.

Meanwhile, Deputy CM Zeliang added, “Residents in coal-bearing areas depend on illegal mining for sustenance and they need to be educated on the adverse effects of such activities.” 

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Opposition against environmental degradation

Demand to cancel the project

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Mines Act, 1952
Section 16 [Owner or manager of a mine to give notice to the district magistrate and Chief Inspector, Indian Bureau of Mines at least a month prior to commencement of any mining operation.] Section 75 [Chief Inspector or district magistrate to initiate prosecution against any owner/ manager of mines.
Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957
Section 4 [No person shall undertake any mining operations in any area except under a mining lease granted under the Act] Section 21 [Whenever anyone raises or transports minerals without lawful authority as under this act, tools or transport used for such activity can be seized by government authorities. State government may recover illegally taken minerals.]
Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006
Section 24 [No person shall knowingly cause any polluting matter to be discharged into any stream or well or on land] Section 25 [No person, without prior consent of State Pollution Control Board, to establish any industry which is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluent into water body]
Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
Section 24 [No person shall knowingly cause any polluting matter to be discharged into any stream or well or on land] Section 25 [No person, without prior consent of State Pollution Control Board, to establish any industry which is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluent into water body]
  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  2. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  3. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  4. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  5. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  6. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

  7. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

No

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Violation of environmental laws

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

No items found.

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Nagaland Geology and Mining Department

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

Image Credit:  

North East 8

Documented By

Text Link

Reviewed By

Text Link

Updated By

Text Link

Edited By

Text LinkLand Conflict Watch

Other Land Conflicts in Nagaland

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