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Allow operations in all 26 mines, mining body urges Odisha govt

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Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, June 5:  

Society of Geoscientists & Allied Technologists (SGAT), a body dedicated to promotion of mineral development, today urged the Odisha government to allow operation of all the 26 mines which were closed down following a Supreme Court order last month.

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“The government has allowed operation of eight mines subject to certain conditions that need to be fulfilled during the renewal of lease. The remaining 16 mines should also be operational for the development of the mining sector and creating employment,” said BK Mohanty, advisor to SGAT.

Mohanty also urged the state government to withdraw the conditions imposed during the renewal of mining leases. “The conditions shall jeopardise operations since most of the lease hold areas have surface right granted by revenue authority. Imposition of these conditions will not facilitate scientific mining,” said the former mines director.

There are about 13,700 applications pending before the government for mining license, prospecting license and renewal of leases.

It is to be noted that the Odisha government has allowed operations in eight iron ore mines out of the 26 mines which were shut down following a Supreme Court order last month. While the court has asked the state government to expedite the lease renewal process within six months, a high level committee, chaired by Chief Secretary, has recommended three conditions for lease renewal: getting forest clearance, payment of penalty imposed for excess mining and getting prior approval for using tribal land.

The eight mines have already been asked to pay Rs 8364 crore towards excess mining. Tata Steel has to pay Rs 2463 crore for its five mines, while SAIL will have to fork out Rs 4168 crore for its two mines. OMC has been directed to pay Rs 1718 crore to get its Kurmitar mines lease renewed.

Stating that the concept of mineral development is extremely important, the SGAT experts said role of stand-alone mines, as opposed to captive mines assumes great importance for it focuses on conserving and developing minerals not only by exploiting the lowest possible grade from the mines but also produces tailor-made ore even from the lowest grade ore through beneficiation and palletisation to cater to the requirement of different steel producers such as sponge, mini blast furnace, sinter and pallet plants etc.

These ores otherwise would have been dumped as it cannot be fed to the blast furnace directly, they said, adding standalone mine achieves “Zero Waste Mining” and “growth of mineral sector” as a standalone industrial activity, which are the major focus in the National Mineral Policy 2008.

However, this is not reflected in the state government’s resolution of october 3, 2012 which allows the renewal of mining leases of captive mines only in the name of mineral development, they pointed out.

The SGAT also opposed reservation of mineral bearing areas in favour of state controlled miner- Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), which the organisation claimed will affect mineral development and drive away potential investors.

Out of 35 mine leases held by it, OMC is currently operating only four.

“The first and foremost task for OMC is to activate the 31 leases lying dormant for years. The state PSU has no potential to run the mines which it has. So, reservation of more mines in its favour has no basis and is against growth,” said Mohanty.

Mohanty, however, admitted that substantial CSR activities have been carried out in the mineral bearing areas for the development of local people. “We have prepared a blue print, which will be presented before the government for carrying out CSR activities in the areas,” said Mohanty.

Ironically, about 10 miners had presented a blue print of Rs 100 crore before the Shah Commission during its hearing in Ahmedabad promising to develop the mineral bearing areas. But, the miners seem to have forgotten all about the promise after the Commission report exposed illegal mining activities.

Whenever the government had tried to take any corrective measures including imposition of stamp duty, penalty for excess minerals and net present value (NPV), which together add up to thousands of crores, the miners have knocked the door of courts and tribunals in an effort to avoid paying the money.