Steel minister Beni Prasad Verma has cautioned environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan against delaying green clearances for SAIL’s iron ore mines in Orissa and Jharkhand. Delays have led to the discontinuation of mining in the predominantly tribal areas, said Verma, cautioning this could trigger law and order problems and stoke naxal activities in these areas.
Verma’s November 30 letter follows SAIL’s top brass cautioning that delays at two SAIL mines — Gua in Jharkhand and Bolani in Orissa — could trigger serious raw material scarcity at its Bokaro plant in Jharkhand and Integrated Steel Plant in West Bengal.
When contacted, Natarajan said her office had not received “any such letter”. She, however, said the issues raised were being “addressed”. The clearance for Bolani was accorded “several days ago” while there are “issues related to environmental violations” in case of Gua mines, she told The Indian Express.
Verma wrote that Gua operations had been held up since June 16, 2011 due to non-availability of forest clearance. Although the stage-I forest clearance was granted on August 14 this year, mining could not resume as SAIL is still awaiting environmental clearance (EC). The steel minister wrote that this was despite the environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee recommending EC for Gua mines. The mine, with a production capacity of 2.3 million tonnes per annum has a run-of-mine production of 8,000 tonnes a day.
Verma said the Gua mine closure has affected 40,000 people. He also reminded Natarajan that SAIL’s ore mines in Orissa and Jharkhand were located in areas where beneficiaries are predominantly tribal populations. Discontinuing mining may lead to law and order problems and aggravate naxal activities and affect all development activities of the area,” the steel minister said.
“Continuation of mining operations in Bolani and Jharkhand has become critical for SAIL. I request for your personal intervention so that SAIL under my ministry does not have to reduce its operations in the steel plants,” the steel minister said in the communication to his MoEF counterpart. Mining in SAIL's Bolani mines has been suspended since November 11 this year for want of working permission for continuation of mining operation in the broken up forest areas (demarkated for mining). Although the Naveen Patnaik government has recommended for Stage-II forest clearance on November 7 for diversion of forest land for 908.78 hectares in 5.1 square mile lease of Bolani mine, but it is pending with the MoEF. The mine produces 13,000 tonne of iron ore per day and is a major source of supply to the maharatna's Durgapur plant.