per the existing rules, any miner, before digging, needs to obtain from the Orissa Pollution Control Board a consent-to-operate (CTO) certificate that stipulates the quantity of ore that can be mined in a year. The quantity has to be approved by the IBM.
Mining companies, an association of miners and former mining department officials said, however, that the government order is flawed and can be challenged in the mining tribunal on the argument that a Union Mines Ministry notification of July 26, 2012, making changes in Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, will have rendered the state’s present showcause notice null and void.
Under the changed rules, the Centre defines illegal mining as any reconnaissance, prospecting or mining undertaken in any area without holding a permit, a licence or a lease as required under sub-section 1 of section 4 of the Act. For mining leaseholders, the rules say violation of any rules other than those under section 23C of the Act within the lease area would not constitute illegal mining.
“As per changes in the rules of MMDR Act in July, overproduction in the leasehold area is not illegal mining. Illegal mining is only when ore is extracted outside the leasehold area,” said B K Mohanty, former director in the mines department and now a member of a society of miners. “Besides they have already paid the royalty and other charges. So how did the state government find this illegal now?”
State mining officials argue that the changes in the MC Rules can’t undo the illegal mining done by these miners 10 years ago. “How can a current change in rules justify the illegalities committed by these companies 10 years ago? The changes can be applicable only from July onwards,” said a department official.
Official documents accessed by The Indian Express indicate that officials of several departments including forest and environment and steel and mines, as well as the Orissa Pollution Control Board, failed to check companies when they were apparently flouting the rules. “All miners submit their monthly figures of ore extraction to the IBM. It’s so easy to find out if a particular mine