MAC: Mines and Communities

Stoppage of limestone supply to Lafarge Surma Indian SC issues showcause notice on central, Meghala

Published by MAC on 2007-06-20

Stoppage of limestone supply to Lafarge Surma Indian SC issues showcause notice on central, Meghalaya governments

Financial Express (India)

20th June 2007

The Supreme Court of India Monday issued a notice to the Meghalaya government and the central government to show cause why the Lafarge Surma Cement cannot transport lime stones for its project in Bangladesh, but did not put a stay on the current ban, according an Indian newspaper report.

"The case will now come up for hearing only in the next months since the court has gone for summer vacation. The court is reopening only after July 9," the Shillong Times quoted senior advocate Ranjan Mukharjee, who appeared on behalf of Meghalaya government in the case, as saying.

The cement giant Lafarge had moved the apex court against the order of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), India virtually putting an end to supply of raw material to its US$255-million plant in Bangladesh.

The Lafarge Surma Cement project at Chhatak, Sunamganj, in Bangladesh is wholly dependent on limestone extracted from East Khasi Hills.

The Environment Ministry of India has ordered stoppage of work at the quarries on the ground that mining is not permitted in forest areas. The limestone is transported from Meghalaya to Bangladesh through a 17km-long conveyor belt.

The advocate of the French multinational, argued that the reversal of stand by MoEF, would render the plant inoperational. The ministry had given no objection for mining and transportation of limestone earlier.

Arguing before the Supreme Court, the petitioner's advocate said that work at the quarries has been stopped on the orders of MoEF, but around 6,00,000 tonnes of already extracted limestone is lying at the quarry sites and requested that this be permitted to be transported through the conveyor belt to the plant to keep it running.

The Court, refused to pass any interim orders and posted the matter for detailed hearing after vacation.

The world leader in building materials, Lafarge of France and renowned Spanish cement producer Cementos Molins set up the state-of-the-art fully integrated cement plant at Chhatak, with a captive power plant of 30 MW capacity. In 2001, the Bangladesh High Commissioner and the then Indian foreign secretary, Lalit Mansingh, had signed an agreement for uninterrupted supply of raw material for the plant.

After this agreement, relevant clearances from the MoEF, the Meghalaya government, the District council and the chief conservator of forest were obtained for the extraction of in East Khasi Hills, the petitioner said.

However, last month, MoEF suddenly turned around and asked for stoppage of work in the quarrying area on the ground that limestone extraction is prohibited in a forest area.

Lafarge has moved an application under Section 2 of the Forest Protection Act seeking permission for non-forest activity in the forest area. In the meantime, the company wants that the already extracted limestone to be allowed to be transported to its plant in Bangladesh which was not allowed by the apex court.


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