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.”

 

#India-Keonjhar tribals up in arms over #mining plans in Khandadhar #Vedanta #Posco


TNN | Oct 30, 2012

KEONJHAR: Fear of displacement stalks tribals inhabiting Banspal block of Keonjhar district abutting the beautiful Khandadhar waterfall with hundreds of companies, including South Korean steel behemoth Posco, applying for lease to mine the Khandadhar hill. A Niyamgiri-type agitation (against Vedanta in Lanjigarh) is already on in the area.

Sources said only two mines, owned by Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), are operating in Malangtoli region near the hill as of now. Posco has applied for mining lease (ML) over an area close to the waterfall. The hill is about 65 km from Keonjhar. On the opposite side of the hill there is another waterfall by the same name in Banei sub-division of Sundergarh district, where too tribals are protesting against the proposed mining activities.

According to the information obtained from mining department through an RTI query, about 219 prospecting licence (PL) applications are pending with it. Companies and individuals have applied for lease over 1,31,406.8881 hectare of land in 52 villages. Similarly, about 237 ML applications on 1,43,895.2357 hectare are pending with the department. According to the department, no ML has been granted to any company as yet. “Only eight companies have been granted PL in the vicinity of Khandadhar hill,” said Keonjhar mining officer D K Parija.

Surrounded by dense forests, the area is known as the ‘rice bowl’ of tribals, mostly Bhuyans, as they depend on it for their livelihood. They have united under the banners of Khandadhara Surakshya Mancha and Lok Sangathan and have been fighting to save the forest and their livelihood.

“We depend on the forest for our livelihood for over six months a year. Medicinal plants, streams, wildlife, a temple and the beautiful waterfall will be destroyed if mining is allowed here,” said Radhakant Dehury, a Bhuyan tribal of Kadakala area. Mining will not only lead to heavy pollution but also damage the Shiva temple, worshipped by thousands of locals, he said.

 

Tribal language teachers go without salary for 8 months #Indiashining


, TNN | Aug 3, 2012,
KEONJHAR: Tribal language teachers inKeonjhar district have not received their salary for the last eight months. They have brought the matter to the notice of the district collector on a number of occasions, but no action has been taken so far, the teachers said.

Brundaban Juang, a teacher, said, “We got salary from June to October 2011. After that, we have not got any payment for eight months. We belong to poor tribal families. We are living in extreme distress.”

According to sources, the government appointed tribal language teachers in schools run bySC/ST department with a view to developing the languages and bringing down the number of school drop outs among tribals.

According to a state government decision, the district administration had published advertisements for the post of language teachers in different tribal languages like Juang, Oram,Santhal and Munda. On the basis of that, 16 teachers were appointed.

U K Naik of the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) of Keonjhar said, “Salaries of the language teachers have not been paid because the government has not sanctioned money.”

“The government is spending huge amount of money for the development of tribals, mostly their education. But it is astonishing that tribal language teachers are not getting salary. The government should take immediate corrective measures,” said Girija Mishra, the secretary of Keonjhar bar association.

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