SC says Sarda Mines guilty of illegal mining in Odisha

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New Delhi | Published: November 13, 2018 4:22:55 AM

Holding Sarda Mines (SMPL) guilty of illegal mining in Odisha, the Supreme Court on Monday said that an environmental clearance granted to it cannot be applied retrospectively and any mining done prior to obtaining the environmental clearance shall attract penalty.

Sarda Mines had acquired a mining lease for over 947.046 hectare for 20 years from 2001 to 2021 for Thakurani iron ore mine in Keonjhar in Odisha, but the environment clearance was granted only in 2004.

Holding Sarda Mines (SMPL) guilty of illegal mining in Odisha, the Supreme Court on Monday said that an environmental clearance granted to it cannot be applied retrospectively and any mining done prior to obtaining the environmental clearance shall attract penalty.
According to the Orissa government counsel, SMPL has to pay around Rs 1,938 crore as penalty for illegal mining till now. Sarda Mines had acquired a mining lease for over 947.046 hectare for 20 years from 2001 to 2021 for Thakurani iron ore mine in Keonjhar in Odisha, but the environment clearance was granted only in 2004.

The bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur rejected the mining company’s argument that there were no illegalities involved and asked its own Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) to recalculate how much iron ore was mined illegally by the company and what penalty should be imposed on it. The court also said that Sarda Mines was granted permission to only extract mineral iron ore and not iron ore lump, which is a by-product of iron ore mining.
The apex court asked the CEC to quantify the penalty to be imposed on SMPL from September 22, 2004 within six weeks. “The calculation should also take into consideration our conclusion that the environmental is not retrospective and the first year of production, in view of the environmental clearance granted to SMPL would be 2004-2005. Any mining in excess of the environmental clearance by SMPL would be and is illegal,” it said, while also rejecting the firms’ argument that the permission to mine mineral iron ore does not include permission to mine lump.

The Bench also said that the environmental clearance granted to SMPL was only with reference to iron ore run of the mine (ROM) and not iron ore (lump). It also noted that the entire iron ore ROM extracted by SMPL is actually sold to Jindal Steel and Power Ltd and it is not only iron ore (lump) that is sold to JSPL. However, it did not deal with the issue of the relationship between SMPL and JSPL as of now. “SMPL is desirous of taking full advantage of its extraction and production of iron ore ROM but at the same time shying away from the legal consequences that follow,” the court said.

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