The Society of Geo-scientists & Allied Technologists (SGAT), an apex body of mining experts, has urged the Odisha government to pass “express orders” granting renewal for the remaining 18 mines that have been closed following the Supreme Court's directives.
The state government recently allowed 8 of the 26 mines to become operational issuing "express orders" granting renewal in terms of section 8(3) of the MMDR Act 1957. "It is urgently necessary that the state government grant renewal in respect of the remaining 18 leases forthwith as all such leases have necessary statutory clearances,” said SGAT president SK Sarangi.
The court, in its order on May 16, had directed the state to close down all mines that were running on deemed extension, waiting for second renewal even while their first renewal had not been validated.
As a result, the state had to direct 26 mining lease holders, including Tata Steel, SAIL, Essel Mining and Industries and Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), to shut shop. The court also told the state to dispose of the Renewal of Mining Leases applications in three months.
Meanwhile, the state government allowed eight mines, belonging to Tata Steel, SAIL and OMC, to operate by renewing their leases by virtue of "express orders".
SGTA advisor BK Mohanty has also urged the government to reconsider the conditions for renewal of leases. He pointed out that enforcement of provisions of the Odisha Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (By Scheduled Tribes) Regulation, 1957, and exclusion of the area belonging to scheduled tribe persons would disturb the contiguity of the mining area and is in contradiction of Section 6 of the MMDR Act, which ensures contiguity of lease area.
Mohanty has also urged the state to take steps for opening up of the other mines that have been closed down for want of statutory clearances. Of 600 mining leases, 125 are operational in the state. He said the government should take a decision on the 13,790 pending mineral concession petitions (RP, PL, ML & RML).