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Odisha Illegal Mining Row: Action against erring officials awaited

 

Monday June 09, 2014

Odisha, Illegal Mining, Scam, OMC, Government, Violation of Acts  
 

"While Government of Odisha has issued notices to illegal miners imposing fine on them, the discontented mine owners have moved to court seeking relief against the fine imposed by the Government. In the meantime, the Union ministry of mines, India, issued a notification enforcing an amendment that says, Violation of any rules, other than rules under section 23C of the MMDR Act, within the mining lease area by a lease holder, shall not include illegal mining."

 

Malay Mohapatra

 
 

The allegation from the opposition parties about 50,000 crore rupees illegal mining in Joda (Keonjhar) and Koira (Sundargarh) Circle has proved to be wrong or an underestimation of the scale of the scam after the state mining department admitted recently that iron ore and manganese worth over 70,000 crore rupees have been mined without Environment clearance.

“My Department has detected 104 mines that have done excess mining in the last 10 years without environment clearance and violating approved Mining Plan. It has come to my knowledge recently after a joint verification was made by a team comprising officers from Indian Bureau of Mines, Forest, Mining and SPCB”, said Raghunath Mohanty, the then Minister of Steel and Mines on the floor of the Assembly on February 22, 2012, while replying to a Question asked Naba Kishore Das, MLA, Jharsuguda.

 

This week, as per the direction of Secretary, Steel and Mines (letter no: IV(A)SM120/ 2010/ 5350/SM dt:23.07.12), the Director of Mines has instructed DDM Joda and DDM, Koira in his letter no. 10222/DM dated 01.09.12 to issue notices imposing fine on 27 iron and manganese mines in Joda Circle and 33  in Koira circle. “We have calculated the market cost price of the excess mineral raised violating Mining Plan and Environment protection Act, 1986, and the value has to be realized from the lessees as per provisions under 21(5) of the MMDR Act 1957,” said Satyananda Sahu, Deputy Director of Mines, Koira.

The state government owned OMC has been fined with more than 2142 crore rupees for excess mining violating EP Act where the secretary, steel and mines is the Chairman and Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), a public sector unit (PSU) under the Indian union government’s steel and mines department, has also been fined with more than 33 crore rupees! How the Secretaries, Steel and Mines, both at the state and the centre allowed operation of the OMC and SAIL without Environment clearance? The state mines secretary who is also the CMD of OMC directed to issue notice against mining lessees where he himself is a defaulter!

“What about the remaining 44 mines already identified by joint verification committee whom notice has not been served yet? Since the Environment Protection Act came into force in 1986, the fine calculations should have been made from 1987 onwards. Since the Act & Rules are binding on all mines, what about the Bauxite, Cromite, Coal, Graphite and other mines of Odisha? If all mines in the state will be included then the fine for violating EP Act and EC Act would exceed rupees 10 lakh crores,” said Mohan Majhi , a leader of BJP.

The Mines owners, according to rule, provide the production figures to The Indian Bureau of Mines and the Mining Department every Quarter and mines are inspected regularly by the concerned officials throughout the year. As per provisions under law, all minerals are shifted out of mines only after obtaining transit permit from mines department and payment of royalty and taxes. The past proceedings of the state mining department meetings reflect how DDMs were directed and pressured to achieve more revenue collection targets and enhance mineral production in their concerned circles. “Now, when investigation into mining scam has begun, everybody tries to be safer by shifting the blame on the other. It’s surprising how illegal mining continued for so many years violating FC ACT 1980, Air pollution Act 1970 and EP Act 1986 without the knowledge of government! Recently if the BJD Government has realized that large scale violations occurred during their rule between 2001-2010, the Chief Minister, who was in charge of the forest and environment ministry most of this period, should resign on moral ground,” demanded  Ananta Nayak, former BJP MP and ex-member of Consultative committee on mining and forest, Government of India.

“After the EP Act of 1986 came into force, both the Congress and BJD remained in power in the state and both parties are responsible for this scam. Also action should be taken against the concerned erring officials of IBM, Forest and Mining Departments including the Principal Secretaries responsible for such gross violations during the last 24 years,” demanded Keonjhar Progressive Citizens Forum in a petition to the Governor, Odisha. When contacted Deepak Mohanty, Director of Mines, failed to give any satisfactory answer and refrained from making any statement on the matter. In the meantime, while discontented mine owners have moved to court seeking relief against the fine imposed by the Government, the Union ministry of mines issued a notification enforcing an amendment that says, as quoted by IBN Live, “Violation of any rules, other than rules under section 23C of the MMDR Act, within the mining lease area by a lease holder, shall not include illegal mining.”

[Author is a senior Keonjhar based Journalist and a Social Activist.]

 
 

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