2,155 lakh mt iron, manganese mined illegally in Odisha during 2000-2011

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 18 2014, 05:56am hrs
Blaming the Odisha government for illegal mining, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on Friday told the Supreme Court that about 2130.988 lakh million tonne of iron ore and 24.129 lakh mt of manganese has been illegally mined from the state between 2000-11. It has estimated the value of such illegally mined mineral to be R1,776.37 crore for iron ore and R59.08 lakh for manganese.

It said this amount was mined without environmental clearance or beyond environmental clearance in the mining leases in Odisha, adding that the 14 lessees, who have produced above 50 lakh mt of iron and manganese in excess of environmental clearances include State-government entity OMC, Central-government firm BPME and companies belonging to some well known corporate groups such as Tata Group and Aditya Birla Group. These 14 lessees account for 72.83 % and 57.86 % respectively of such production of iron ore and manganese, it added.

The total notional value of the minerals produced without/in excess of the environmental clearance, at the weighted average price of minerals as published by the IBM, adds up to R17,091.24 crore for iron and R484.92 crore for manganese, CEC said in its 178-page report.

Earlier in May, the SC had ordered a limited mining ban in Odisha and had said those operating on deemed renewals for a second time and beyond will have to stop mining operations. Around 26 companies which were on their second renewal had to apply for fresh grant of licence to the state government.

The apex court had then allowed 14 leases, operating after their first renewal, to continue mining and had allowed another 16 miners to operate.

Around 102 mining leases which lacked requisite statutory approvals were not allowed to operate, according to the bench.

The green bench also asked the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee to give a final report by July-end.

According to the CEC report, mining operations in the mining leases for iron and manganese in Odisha have been undertaken practically by all the lessees.

OMC is a major violator and heads the pack. The GoI undertakings and companies belonging to well known corporate groups figure prominently in the list of violators. It is most disturbing to note that the entire production without/in excess of the statutory approvals has been transported under the transit permits issued by the concerned officers of the state government and that too after payment of royalty at the applicable rates. The senior officers of the state government from the chief secretary downwards cannot escape responsibility for such wholesale and brazen violation of the Acts, rules and guidelines and the directions of this Honble Court and also points towards lax governance, the report stated.

Keeping in view the facts and circumstances, the CEC is of the view that it may be appropriate that 30% of the notional value of the iron and manganese produced by each of the lessees without/in excess of the environmental clearances may be directed to be recovered from the concerned lessees and with the explicit understanding that the concerned lessee as well as the officers will continue to be liable for action under the provisions of the respective Acts.