When excess mining got a legal seal #Odisha


pic courtesy, Reuters

Debabrata Mohanty : Bhubaneswar, Mon Nov 12 2012, 01:22 hrs

A key mining regulator, The Indian Bureau of Mines, allowed excess mining to carry on in Orissa by raising the permissible limit of those responsible, says the state government, which recently slapped a penalty on several leaseholders.

The IBM, however, says that excess mining is not illegal as long as the companies involved pay the royalty for what they have extracted. In fact, because of an amendment to mining rules, the state and the Centre continue to debate what constitutes illegal mining.

The IBM, with its headquarters in Nagpur, approves the mining plans of each company for a period of five years with predetermined annual limits under section 5(2)(b) of the Mines & Minerals (Regulation & Development) Act, 1957 and other rules such as Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, and Mineral Conservation & Development Rules, 1988. A lease period of 20 or 30 years is, therefore, divided into four or six mining plans. After the state government gets the IBM-approved mining plan, it grants or renews a lease.

When the first signs of excess mining in Keonjhar and Sundargarh showed in 2003, IBM officials on the ground spotted it. Official sources said that under the MC&D Rules, 1988, IBM officials are empowered to cancel the lease or impose penalties. It instead revised the mining plan, the sources said.

Documents with the steel and mines department show that in Khandabandh mines in Keonjhar, the IBM had approved extraction of 3.60 lakh tonnes by Tata Steel in 2006-07. The company raised 7.64 lakh tonnes, and again 7.42 lakh tonnes in 2007-08. The next year, the IBM raised the limit to 7.06 lakh tonnes without imposing penalties. In 2002-03, when the limit was 24 lakh tonnes at Joda East mines, the Tatas mined 30.5 lakh tonnes. The next year, the IBM raised the limit to 40.1 lakh tonnes.

“The mining plan/scheme is an instrument to systematically conserve the ores and not finish them overnight. Once a mining plan is given for five years, it should not be revised midway, but that’s what the IBM did,” said Orissa director of mines Deepak Kumar Mohanty. “They didn’t levy any penalty on over-mining and instead set new limits the next year. If you are going to condone illegalities, why have a mining plan/scheme at all?”

IBM officials say excess extraction is not illegal as long as the miner pays the royalty. “Once royalty is paid on excess production of ore, it can’t be called illegal mining. This was more like irregular operations,” said M Biswas, regional controller of mines with the IBM.

Biswas rejected the state’s allegation that the IBM failed to detect irregularities in mining. “We have done our duty and the state government is doing its job,” he said. “The IBM should not be blamed for the wrongs. It has taken action against certain mines by suspending their operations.”

Chief secretary B K Patnaik had written to the Union Mines Ministry about the IBM’s inaction, and the mines secretary wrote back to say that 20 per cent excess mining for a given year is condonable. This July, the ministry amended the MC Rules, 1960, saying mining outside the lease area is illegal but excess mining inside the lease area is not. The state government finds this difficult to accept. “Where is the rule in the MMDR Act that says 20 per cent excess mining can be allowed?” says the state director of mines.

Jayant Das, president of the Orissa High Court Bar Association and a lawyer on mineral matters, said, “The IBM had all the information to be able to crack down on illegal mining. But companies continued to over-extract from mines which had a deemed renewal status. This is not possible without a quid pro quo arrangement.”

Environmental activist Biswajit Mohanty, who has filed a PIL in the Orissa High Court demanding a CBI probe into the scam, said, “If deemed renewal by the state steel and mines department was the main cause of excess mining, the IBM’s negligence or condoning gave the miners the licence to loot.”

 

2 comments on “When excess mining got a legal seal #Odisha

  1. Pingback: kracktivist

  2. Pingback: #India-Mining Ministry’s Zero Loss Theory « kracktivist

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