Experts find fault in Orissa govts R70k-crore penalty notices to mine owners

Bhubaneswar | Updated: Nov 16 2012, 07:40am hrs
The Society of Geoscientists and Allied Technologists (SGAT) has submitted a memorandum to the Orissa government pointing out that the penalty notices served on 104 mine owners for recovery of Rs 70,000 crore is incorrect.

The 734-member strong apex body of geoscientists and mining engineers has said in its memorandum that there is a flaw in the recovery notice and it would not stand in the court of law. The department of steel & mines has issued missives by way of resolution and letter, which we have held to be incorrect and misconceived and do not remotely serve the interest of the mineral development, the SGAT has mentioned in the memorandum. A high-level SGAT team had met the chief secretary BK Patnaik and steel & mines secretary Rajesh Verma and submitted the 24-page memorandum, copies of which are with FE.

They also submitted a memorandum to the visiting team of Shah Commission last week.

The state department of steel and mines, in its letter No.5350/SM, dated July 23, addressed to the state director of mines has ordered for recovery of price of ore raised in the lease hold area in excess of the quantity approved by IBM in mining plan/scheme, environmental clearance and consent order, together with simple interest @ 24% per annum.

The director of mines has slapped recovery notices on 104 lessees totalling R70,000 crore for raising minerals like iron ore and manganese in excess of their mining plan during the 10 years between 2000-01 and 2009-10.

Asserting that Section 21 (5) of the MMDR Act is not applicable for taking any punitive action in regard to raising of additional quantity of ore from the lease hold area, the SGAT has said that the action of the department of steel and mines is clearly faulted and does not have any legal sanction.

The SGAT has clarified that Section 21(5) of MMDR Act is applicable only when there is mining outside the lease areas or mining without lease.

Violations pertaining to mining operations within the mining lease area are to be dealt with only in terms of the provisions of the Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 1988. However, the interpretation that land granted under a mining lease by the state government can be held to be occupied without lawful authority on the grounds of violation of provisions of any other law of the land is not appropriate and such interpretation may not stand in the court of law. Such Act or Rules, including the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, or the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, etc, clearly provide penalties for violations under those laws.

Following the SGAT memorandum, the state government initiated the process of identifying the illegal mining (mining outside leased area and mining without lease) so as recover the value of the minerals raised along with the penal interest under Section 21(5) of MMDR Act.