Odisha Sun Time Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 16 :
The Centre is likely to slap show cause notices to both private companies and PSUs including SAIL, Tata Steel, Essel Mining, JSPL and OMC, who operate 75 mines where illegal mining of iron and manganese ores was detected by the Shah Commission, reliable sources said.
This is being done to create an impression that both Centre and the Odisha government are taking firm action against illegal mining operation in the state and plead before the apex court that a CBI probe is no longer necessary in view of the action already taken.
It may be mentioned here that the Odisha government in its action taken report (ATR) submitted to the Centre, has claimed it has taken steps for initiating legal action against defaulting mines which have undertaken mining operations with valid EC. It also claims that action for recovery of cost price of mineral illegally extracted has been initiated under section 31 (5) of MMDR Act.
It is another matter that these so-called ‘firm action’ were mooted only after the Commission started probing into rampant illegal mining in Odisha.
The Justice M B Shah Commission of Inquiry has pointed out that 22.56 lakh tonnes of iron and 3 lakh tonne of manganese ore extracted by companies in 75 lease areas are “illegal” and recommended that the value of the ore be recovered from these firms.
Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Tata Steel, Aditya Birla group’s Essel Mining and Industries, Jindal Strips of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and the state government-owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) are among the 75 lease holders who have been accused of indulging in illegal and unauthorised extraction of ore.
The ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has now proposed to serve these 75 lessees show cause notices for violations and issue directions to limit ore production to the level specified in their Environment Clearance letters .
The ministry will also write to Odisha state government to take “credible action” against these offenders under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, sources said.
The Shah Commission has observed that there are 96 leases which have obtained much-delayed environment clearances and in these 75 lease areas, the extraction of ore has been carried out after January 27, 1994.
“The 22,56,74,380 MT of iron ore and 30,71,973 MT of manganese have been extracted illegally without having lawful authority (either there was no EC obtained for the period or when obtained, the excess quantity of ore was extracted above the limit fixed by MoEF during EC approvals),” the Shah Commission has said in its report tabled in Parliament.
The report, already tabled in the Parliament, has asked the authorities to recover the market value for the illegally extracted iron and manganese ores under the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act, 1957.
The indicted companies have said they are not in a position to comment as they are yet to access the report.