Report by Chinmaya Dehury/ Edited by Swetaparna Mohanty
Bhubaneswar, Aug 15
Stung by the fall-out from the massive loot of iron ore from the Uliburu mines, the Odisha government has asked the Director of Mines to submit an Action Taken Report (ATR) on recovery of the cost of the illegally extracted iron ore and manganese by Arjun Ladha, a key culprit in the mining scam said to be worth Rs 1, 800 crore, in Keonjhar district.
The state Steel & Mines department has sought a report from its Mines Directorate on steps taken to recover the cost of excess iron ore and manganese ore raised unlawfully by the lessee from its Haromoto mines in Keonjhar district.
Between 1996 and 2009, the mine lessee produced 611,828 tonnes of iron ore and 19,918.52 tonnes of manganese ore in excess of the approved quantum, which the department said violated Section 21 (5) of Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) MMDR Act-1957.
The department has also asked the Director (Mines) to submit a detailed report, indicating the names of officials responsible for allowing Arjun Ladha to continue mining operations beyond the leasehold area spread over 326.50 hectares (ha).
“The cost of excess ore extracted from the Arjun Ladha mines is yet to be assessed. But it has not yet been established if mining was carried out beyond the lease limits”, said director of mines Deepak Mohanty.
The Government has also asked the Superintendent of Police of the Vigilance cell, probing the illegal mining activities, to submit a report on the action taken on Arjun Ladha. Earlier, the State Vigilance had carried out a prolonged enquiry into the Arjun Ladha case.
In 2009, the Vigilance sleuths detected illegal mining of over 6.11 lakh tonnes of iron ore and nearly 20,000 tonnes of manganese ore by Arjun Ladha from the mines at Haromoto and Pacheri villages in Keonjhar district. The minerals were extracted between 1996 to July 2009 in violation of Section 25 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
In case of Arjun Ladha, the Steel & Mines department had passed an order for termination of the mining lease spread over 326.5 hectares in Haromoto village in Keonjhar district on February 15, 2011 under Rule 27 (5) of Mineral Concession Rules-1960. Later, the lessee had contested the government order in the Revision Authority on April 26, 2011. Thereafter, the state government had moved the Odisha High Court where the case is still pending.
In its order, the state government said the lessee had violated Rule 27 (1) of Mineral Concession Rules (MCR) 1960 by not keeping accurate and faithful accounts showing the quantity and other particulars of all minerals obtained and despatched from the mines. Over dumping had been done by the lessee over the lease boundary line on the southern side of the mine lease area, it was found during field inspection.
Besides, Arjun Ladha had violated the conditions of the lease agreement under Rule 27 of MCR by carrying out illegal mining beyond its leasehold area. The state government had also held the lessee guilty of violating Section 2 of Forest Conservation Act-1980 by expanding the broken up area inside the Karo reserve forest area from 19.05 hectares in 1996 to 48.77 hectares in 2004 and to 59.11 hectares in 2009.