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Odisha: Probe into Mining Lease Grants may trouble the Government  

Monday June 09, 2014

ILLEGAL MINING, ODISHA, MINING LEASE, PROBE, M B SHAH COMMISSION  
 

"Considering the present definition of illegal mining, the long list of mining lessees is being short listed restricting the lease holders responsible for illegal mining in Odisha. According to previous inquiry reports available with the Odisha mines department, the attention of the MB shah Commission of enquiry is drawn towards many of such cases.”

 

Malay Mohapatra

 
 

After the eyes of the Shah commission fell on the validity of mining leases in Odisha, the state government is on the exercise to divert the attention by an immediate order dated October 6 (letter no 7346) to consider Renewal of Mining Lease (RML) applications pending between 1987 to 1994 as invalid. This order states that RML which has violated Rule 24 A of the MC rule 1960 and provisions of subsection 2 of MMDR act, is to be deemed refused and reverted back to Government. This has dragged the mines department into further complications while raising questions like, what about the Mining lease (ML) applications received between 23.02.1968 and 07.01.1993? “As per the MCR – rule 24, sub rule 3, regarding disposal of mining lease, the applications if not disposed by Govt within 12 months of its receipt were to be considered refused and rejected Under 24(iii) MCR 1960,” a senior mining expert remarked.

 

But instead of rejecting those applications, the mining department considered those invalid applications for grant of mining leases in violation of the provisions of sec 19 of MMDR ACT 1957. Sources confirm that almost none of the mining applications received between 23.02.1968 and 07.01.1993 in Odisha were disposed off within the timeframe of 12 months. Grant of such leases is void and should be of no effect and such cases must be examined. If such type of cases exists then these leases are illegal and liable for rejection and reverted back to Government too.

Under MMDR act sec 16, “All mining leases granted before the commencement of MMDR Amendment Act 1972, if in force at the date of commencement of the MM (R&D) amendment act 1994, shall be brought in conformity with the provision of these acts and rules there under within two years from the date of commencement of MMRD amendment Act 1994 or such further time as the central government may, by general or special order, specify on this behalf.” Hence mining leases if not brought under conformity of MMDR act may be treated illegal as per the law. Further, clause B of the said section requires, the mining leases granted before October 25, 1949 should also be brought into conformity as per the provisions of ACT and rules made there under within 2 years from the commencement of MM (RD) Amendment Act 1994. If properly investigated, many illegal leases granted by the government would be detected exposing majority of big mining houses under this clause.

As per sec 24(B), the RML and MLs were to be granted to persons or firms using the mineral for their own industry.  But while granting the RML / ML application, this norm was overlooked to favour different mine owners. “Also the temporary extensions given by the state to some of the expired mining leases without the consent of the centre may be probed. But the fact remains that the Government has indirectly confessed that many mines which operated without valid leases were permitted to operate under the clause of deemed extension ignoring the MMDR Act and now the mines secretary blame it on the lessees. If the present order of the state mines department is executed, they themselves will be dragged to court for its own negligence. And, there is all probability that the lessees, on rejection of their RML application, would resort to this option. The central government who receives an annual status report on mines in Odisha has also remained silent on these issues and they cannot get scot-free even after their negligence to regulate the mining leases since 1957. The problems has arose from the investigations of the MB Shah commission as to how most of mining leases which expired before 1994 remained valid and  operated in Odisha being considered as deemed extended till date!

Illegal mining still continues in Odisha

Last August, the Central Government, in modification of Mineral Concession rule 1960, has defined illegal mining as extraction of ore beyond its lease hold area. Excess production of ore even within a lease area is also to be treated as a violation and compensated by imposing a fine on the lessee. Considering the present definition of illegal mining, the long list of mining lessees is being short listed restricting the lease holders responsible for illegal mining. According to previous inquiry reports available with the mines department, the attention of the MB shah Commission of enquiry is drawn towards many of such cases.

The mines department has detected illegal mining of ore by SAIL in its Barsuan Mines in Koida mining sector where the company crossed its lease boundary while extracting ore. Earlier, the State vigilance department in its FIRs had alleged Jajang Mines of Rungta to have encroached into the BPJ mines of OMC and SN Das Mohapatra mines to have encroached into the area of RBT katasahi mines while DDM Joda had accused Pattnaik minerals to have encroached into the BPJ mines of OMC, KN Ram into reserve forest and Government land, and JN Pattnaik at Bhanjapalli mines into OMC area to carry out illegal mining.

Another instance of illegal mining is SGBK mines of OMC that operated even without a valid lease deed!  In SGBK, the mining was carried out by OMC over an area of 1011.472 hectares (including 793.45 hectare forest land) on agency basis since 1982. With amendment of MMDR rule in 1999, operation of mines on agency basis was banned throughout the country but the said mine continued to operate illegally till 2009 even after the state government officially cancelled the lease on 23.11.2006. Official records reveal that the state had allowed operation of the mines till November 2001 only after obtaining forest clearance from MOEF. How the mining operation continued without obtaining any Forest clearance or a valid mining lease is still a matter of deep suspicion.

Action needed to trace destinations of stolen ore

Besides, the forest department has demanded NPV amount from this invalid mines. Presently the OMC colony, offices, store and stock yard are found to have been established in the forest area of the mines and theft of minerals continue from this area till date. During Renewal of Mining Lease (RML), operators like TISCO, KN Ram, OMDC, Sirajuddin & co have surrendered vast areas of their mining lease but the government is yet to take possession of the surrendered area allowing the thieves and mining mafias to take control over it. From the remote sensing satellite maps, many illegal pits are visible just outside the lease boundaries of TISCO at Khand bandh, Sargigarh, Indupur,Ganua, Bamebari, Joda East including the forest areas of the TISCO lease. Also Big illegal pits on the lease boundary of OMDC, Sharda and DRPattnaik mines in The Thakurani Hills shows how millions of tons of ore has been illegally mined out but no one has yet been held responsible for the theft or illegal mining of such huge volume of ores worth hundreds of crores of rupees. Even involvement of neighbouring lessees cannot be ruled out in these cases. Vast illegal mining pits are also visible in Sundergarh - Keonjhar district border near Khand bandh, Tiring pahad, Chor malda, Manda joda, Dalita, Kriyakudar, Mithirda, Bali parbat, Malantoly block for which the state mining department has to find a satisfactory answer. Even a probe into the rail dispatch of ores from Barsuan, Renjda, Chandposi railway sidings in Koida mining circle during the last 10 years would unearth evidence of millions of tons of illegally raised mineral which has been shifted out to different destinations without proper transit permit and indent.

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

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