Reported by Sandeep Pattnaik
Bhubaneswar, Feb 21 :
The Society of Geoscientists and Allied Technologists (SGAT) on Friday came out with strong reservations against the proposed e-auction of minerals like iron ore, manganese and chrome ore in the state.
“The procedure of e-auction is not provided in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act, nor in the rules made there under,” Director Mines, Shri B K Mohanty said briefing media persons here on Friday.
Besides, the e-auction proposed to be undertaken by M/s MSTC Ltd, a third party, which is not allowed under the mining lease deed executed between the State Government and the lessees, he said adding, “the only beneficiary in the process will be MSTC who do not have any profit making venture at present.”
“The e-auction of minerals will result in multiple price discovery which makes the various plants particularly the steel plants to suffer in the process, as they have long term price-supply arrangements with the vendors. Also auctioning of minerals will curb independent trading of minerals in the open market,” Shri Mohanty revealed to the press.
“Further assessment of royalty cannot be based on e-auction by overriding the present system of assessment based on certain percentage of Pit Mouth Value [PMV] in respect of exploration of minerals,” he claimed.
The SGAT is also opposed to Shah Commission terming the excess production of minerals beyond the environmental clearance [EC] or the approved mining plan as ‘illegal mining’.
“This can be called as irregular but not illegal mining, as the Ministry of Mines has amended the rule 24A (6) of Mining Concession Rules (MCR), 1960 by providing that the lease period shall be deemed to be extended for a further period of 2 years, in case the renewal of lease is not done within the specified time,” a geoscientist said.
Besides, the commission’s report citing encroachment of lease area and illegal mining based on the DGPS survey and Google image are not acceptable, he argued.
“There is no conclusive evidence to prove this and there will be a mismatch between demarcations made by the DGPS survey and the existing traditional method,” the geoscientist said.
The commission has not been able to precisely say who have carried out illegal mining outside the lease areas and also the state government has not taken adequate steps to verify the authenticity of maps while sending the same to the commission, as observed by SGAT.
The findings of SGAT are in sharp contrast with the report of the Shah Commission which says about pollution of the Baitarani river caused by mining done in the area. “The State Pollution Control Board [SPCB] is there to monitor such eco-degradation activities and it is regularly conducting its activities,” one member of SGAT said while addressing to media persons on Friday.
The SGAT further went on to criticize the procedure of allocation of coal blocks to lessees by the Centre to corporates.
“The allocation has been done without backed by any act like the MMDR Act or the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition & Development) Act, 1957,” one expert from the mining sector said.
“In view of the provisions under Sec 5(1) of the MMDR Act, 1957 that the State Government shall seek previous approval for the Government of India for grant of mineral concessions for specified minerals, which include coal, allocation of coal blocks by the GOI beforehand is unnecessary,” he added.
Commenting on the recent coal block de-allocation in case of JSPL and the TATAs, the SGAT put the onus of non-development of coal blocks on the government machineries for their delay in granting pre-requisite statutory approvals like obtaining approval of mining plan, forest and environment clearances, consent to operate etc, besides problems in land acquisition.
“The allocates don’t have any fault in non-development of coal blocks and cancellation of their licenses are unwarranted as they had to wait for quite long time to get ML/PL,” according to the SGAT’s view.
The SGAT had also a strong reservation on the ban of bauxite mining as happened in case of Vedanta in Niyamgiri hills. It is of the view that, mining of bauxite will have no effect on the water regime as seen in Panchpatmali mines of NALCO. In Niyamgiri which has been in limelight, studies carries out by CMPDI have shown that proposed mining will have no effect on the water regime.
Similarly, the wild life in the bauxite bearing areas is very thin as revealed by the Wild Life Institute of India. Therefore, the apprehension about adverse effect on wild life is not correct, the SGAT study revealed.
Besides, the bauxite bearing plateau of the state do not have habitation. Therefore, displacement of habitat will not arise, as per the SGAT observation.
The SGAT is also urged upon no-ban on mining operation leading to adverse impact on the economy and use of scientific methods to mitigate the degradation effects of the mining.
Besides, it is of the vies that, conduct of Gram Sabha should not be considered as the ultimate deciding factor for operation of mines that is almost similar to the process of conducting public hearing for environmental clearance.
All efforts should be made to continue mining operations in the state and timely decision should be made for obtaining all required statutory approvals, the SGAT observed.