Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Nov 22:
It was a piquant situtation at the Supreme Court on Friday as the Odisha government demanding the immediate closure of the Kurmitar iron iron ore mines in Sundarharh district belonging to its own PSU Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) and the latter opposing it.
Arguig on behalf of the OMC, senior counsel CJ Venugopal sought time till March for the PSU to secure forest clearance for the mining project. Though the concerned Gram Sabha had already given its seal of approval to mining activities, it would take some time the resolution passed at the Gram Sabha and get the necessary forest clearance for the reopening of the mines.
OMC supplies raw material to a number of steel making units in the state and continued closure of the Kurmitar mines would adversely affect iron ore supply to these units, Venugopal contended.
Counsel for the Odisha government Nageswar Rao, however, opposed any extension of time for renewal of lease. He said the government had already given plenty of time and opportunties to the eight mines run on the ‘express order’ clause and there was no ground for any further extennsion of the November 15 deadline.
“If Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) could secure all statutory clearances within this deadline, why could OMC not do the same?” he asked.
The court, after hearing the pleas from both the sides, asked the state government, MoEF and the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) to furnish a reply on the plea of the OMC within six weeks.
The apex court also ruled that the Kurmitar mines of the OMC will run as usual for the next six weeks.
It may be mentioned that the state government had closed down 26 iron ore and manganese mines as per the orders of the apex court issued on May 16 as the leases of these mines had not been renewed for years and they were being run under the ‘deemed extension’ clause in the mining rules. The court had asked the state government to decide on the renewal of mining leases of these 26 companies within six months.Kurmitar mines was one of the 26 closed mining units.
However, the state government, based on the the apex courorder,, had t later allowed mining operations in eight of these mines, including the Kurmitar mines, through an express order while asking them to obtain all statutory clearances by November 15, failing which they would be closed permanently.
Barring the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), which got the lease for four of its mines renewed, the rest four leaseholders including the OMC had failed to renew their mining lease.
Apprehending closure of the Kurmitar mines, OMChad moved the Supreme Court seeking three months’ time for renewal of mining lease.