Home ECONOMY Odisha mining sector: Soothing words, promises not enough

Odisha mining sector: Soothing words, promises not enough


Reported by Sandeep Pattnaik
Bhubaneswar, May 12:

Hit by a double whammy- of mammoth penalties imposed by the Odisha government over excess mining and the impending threat of a Supreme Court order banning mining operations- the mining companies operating in the state see a ray of hope after the review meeting at the State Secretariat today, in which the Union secretaries of Steel and Mines as well as the senior state officials appeared sympathetic to their cause.
Some of them said they can now look forward to the government, both in the state and the Centre, coming to their aid, just in case the Supreme Court passes an unfavourable interim order, in line with its earlier orders in Goa and Karnataka mining cases, leading to a temporary ban on mining operations in Odisha.

Many others, on the other hand, felt no one would come to their rescue if the apex court passed a negative order and wondered why the concerned ministries and state departments did not foresee the problems that would arise out of a negative order by the apex court and failed to take appropriate measures earlier.

Clearly, the senior bureaucrats from Delhi as well as Odisha were unwilling to stick their necks out for the mining companies while they emphasised on compliance with existing laws and that revival of mining activity had to be done within the legal framework.

Valid and legalized mining leases in Odisha, which have been held up due to delay in getting statutory clearances or some inter-departmental issues, are likely to be revived through joint efforts by both state and Central governments, sources in the state mining department said today.

According to the sources, there are about 59 operating mines in Odisha which include 41 Iron & Manganese mines, six coal mines, one bauxite mine, five chromite and six limestone mines.

Around 131 mines have been closed down for various reasons.

“If the closure is for procedural reasons or lack of statutory clearances, then steps will be taken expeditiously to revive them,” chief secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra said during a high level meeting held in the state secretariat on Monday.

“All mining activities in the state are not illegal. Details of the closed mines, on a case to case basis should be examined to find out the reasons for their closure,” said Anup Kumar Pujari, Secretary, Ministry of Mines, Government of India on the occasion.

“Mines & Minerals Development and Regulation Act-1957 (MMDR Act 1957) is the governing legislation of the country and all issues relating to lease, auction, prospecting license, renewal etc. should be decided as per the provisions of the Act,” he said.

Chairman cum Managing Director (CMD), Odisha Mining Corporation [OMC] Saswat Mishra suggested that, since forest and environmental clearances are submitted at the time of Stage-1 clearance, these certificates may not be kept as prerequisites or conditions for consideration of Stage-II clearance,because this usually leads to delay in development of mines by the lessees.

“The lessees may be asked to comply with such conditions before starting mining operation in the leased area. Both the state and Central government authorities should take note of the suggestions and try to resolve the matter soon,” Mishra said.

Replying to a media query with regard to raw material linkage to industries, Chief Secretary JK Mohapatra said this issue will be largely addressed after resumption of legal mining activities in the state.