The Union environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) has given the go-ahead for a 30-year environmental clearance extension for state-owned Coal India Limited’s Dipka opencast coal mine in Chhattisgarh’s Korba even as residents of the area have called for its closure citing environmental concerns.
At an EAC meeting on January 24, the minutes of which have been published on the ministry’s website, the panel has recommended continuance of the clearance for 30 years or the life of the mine–whichever is earlier.
The mine was submerged during the last monsoon when the Lilagar river, a tributary of Mahanadi, was in full spate in September. Local environmental activists like Bipasha Paul of Raipur-based Jan Abhivyakti, who visited the spot soon after the flooding, found that fly ash washed away from the mine polluted the river.
A video of the flooding was shared widely on social media. Environmental expert, Shashank Shekhar, assistant professor, department of geology, Delhi University, had said having an opencast coal mine so close to a river was a recipe for such accidents and toxic pollution. Erik Solheim, a former executive director of the UN Environment Programme, had tweeted a video of the flooding saying “nature has its own plans.”
The environmental clearance for the Dipka mine, with a capacity of 35 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) and spread over a mining lease area of 1999. 23 ha, was to expire on March 20.
The project was granted clearance for expansion from 31 to 35 MTPA in a letter dated February 20, 2018. Its expansion was to be reviewed after a year.