Mining over the limit

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Workers and machinery at an iron ore mine in Keonjhar district. Ranjan Panda Workers and machinery at an iron ore mine in Keonjhar district. Ranjan Panda
SummaryOrissa fines miners Rs 68,000 cr for digging out more than agreed

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.

Late awakening

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 has crossed the limit,” said the owner of a small iron ore mine in Joda. Essel Mining was sent a closure notice by the OPCB’s regional office in Keonjhar district on January 24, 2006, for violating conditions and running two screening plants inside the forest area without mandatory environmental clearance. It did not shut shop.

The divisional forest officer of Keonjhar in January 2011 had recommended that the principal chief conservator of forests, Orissa, move the Centre to withdraw forest clearance to Sarada Mines, and that the state government cancel Sarada’s lease for Thakurani Iron Ore Mines. The DFO sent

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