In a major shot in the arm for Odisha’s beleaguered mining industry, senior officials of the state and Centre have decided to take coordinated steps to reopen 131 mines that were shut down for want of statutory clearances.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting on Monday.
According to government sources, there are about 59 operating mines in that state which includes 41 iron and manganese mines, six coal mines, one bauxite mine, five chromite and six limestone mines.
Sources said around 131 mines have been shut down for various reasons.
Odisha chief secretary, JK Mohapatra, said the Monday meeting decided to look into all the details of these mines on a case-to-case basis and find out the reasons for their closure.
It has also been decided that if the mine closure is for procedural reasons or stipulated clearances, expedited steps will be taken to revive them, he added.
At the meeting, union secretary for mines, Anup Kumar Pujhari, and secretary for steel, G Mohan Kumar, also reviewed the mining, steel and aluminium industries of the state.
“In the meeting it was decided that mining activity in the state has to be made a legitimate economic activity by complying to all the statutory requirements through combined efforts of both state and Central governments,” said Pujhari. Stating that all mining activities are not illegal, he said legalised mining leases that have been stalled due to the non-compliance to statutory clearances and some interdepartmental decisions should be revived through joint expedited efforts both at state and national levels.
The meeting took note of the suggestion made by the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) CMD, Saswat Mishra, that since forest and environment clearances are submitted at the time of stage-I clearance, these certificates may not be kept as prerequisite for consideration of state II clearance.
As the Supreme Court, which has completed the hearing on a PIL relating to illegal mining activities, is expected to announce its verdict soon, there is apprehension among the state mining industry that the apex court will impose a Goa-type sanction on the state.
In such a situation, while those involved in mining activities will be affected directly, the state’s steel industries will also face a raw material crunch.
The state chief secretary, however, assured that the problem will be largely addressed to after the resumption of legal mining activities in the state.