Shock For Mine Owners

The Supreme Court of India today said mining companies that had been operating without necessary clearances in Odisha would be liable to pay 100 Percent penalty on the price of ore that had been illegally extracted. 

A Bench of the Apex Court  called the Government’s Policy on Mining out-dated and directed it to frame a new Policy by December 31, 2017, to protect India’s natural resources for future generations.
“The facts revealed during the hearing of these writ petitions filed under Article 32 of the Constitution suggest a mining scandal of enormous proportions and one involving megabucks,” said the Bench, headed by Justice Madan B Lokur.
 “Lessees in the districts of Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj in Odisha have rapaciously mined iron ore and manganese ore, apparently destroyed the environment and forests and perhaps caused untold misery to the tribals in the area”, it added.
 In 2009, allegations of multi-crore mining scam hit the Odisha Legislative Assembly and both the Houses of Parliament after which Justice MB Shah Commission was assigned to probe illegal mining in Odisha, Goa, Karnataka and other states.
 While the investigations in Odisha were going on, the State Government in November 2012 issued penalty notice of Rs.68,000 crore on different lessees in Joda and Koira sectors. The Shah Commission took note of the fine imposed and recommended for its recovery. 
Subsequently, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by Common Cause, an NGO represented by Prashant Bhusan, which demanded criminal action against illegal mining pointed out by the Justice MB Shah Commission.
The violations primarily involved companies that had illegally mined ore in excess of the quantum permitted under the forest or environmental clearances.
The Court had, through an expert committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, directed to identify the lapses that had occurred over the years that enabled rampant illegal and unlawful mining in Odisha.
 The panel was also asked to recommend preventive measures not only to Odisha, but to all states in general.
In 2014, a Central Empowered Committee under Supreme Court had found that 102 of 187 iron and manganese ore mining lease holders did not have the requisite clearances.
According to the CEC, 2,155 lakh million tonnes of iron and manganese ore had been extracted without environmental clearances, a figure the court called ‘frightening’. Looking beyond Odisha, the court, in its order, also pointed out that the Union Government does not have an effective Mining Policy.
It said that the one that exists remains only on paper and is not being enforced perhaps due to the involvement of very powerful vested interests or a failure of nerve.
It directed the Centre to develop a new Mining Policy, one that takes into account the advent of rapacious mining in several parts of the country, calling for the new law to be more effective, meaningful and implementable.
Former Industries Minister and Congress Veteran, Niranjan Patnaik hailed the Apex Court Order.

Mr.Patnaik demanded that the nearly Rs 18,000 crore fine recovered from the errant mining companies be spent on development of mining districts, especially tribal dominated Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Jharsuguda, Jajpur and Mayurbhanj districts.

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