Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 4:
In a decision that would bring huge relief to the mining sector in Odisha, an inter-departmental committee today recommended to the state government reopening of 26 closed mines in the state under the provisions of the new Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015.
However, the final decision in this regard will be taken by the state government.
The decision to recommend the reopening of the 26 closed mines was taken at an inter-departmental meeting chaired by Development Commissioner U N Behera at the state secretariat here today. It was attended by Principal Secretary Steel & Mines department, Director, Mines, Director Geology, Secretary, Law, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), officials of the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB)and officials of Odisha Remote Sensing Applications Centre (ORSAC).
The 26 closed mines whose reopening was recommended by the committee include the 18 iron ore and manganese ore mines closed on Supreme Court orders last year. The decision recommending reopening of the closed mines was taken in accordance with the provisions of the new MMDR Act 2015, officials said.
“In accordance with the provisions of the amendments made in the MMDR Act, we have recommended extension of leases of 26 mines that had come up for our consideration. These mines had no cases of violation of lease conditions against them and are thus eligible for lease extension. The meeting decided to extend their period of lease. The committee can only recommend; it is the government which will take the final call. We have recommended extension of lease period till 2030 for captive mines and till 2020 for non-captive mines. The 26 mines whose reopening was recommended today include the 18 mines that were closed for second and subsequent renewal following Supreme Court orders on May 16, 2014 and eight iron ore and manganese ore mines which were operating under express orders. Out of them, lease deeds have been executed for three mines belonging to SAIL and one belonging to OMC has been given an extension. The rest include mines of Tatas, VK Lal and ACC Bargarh,” said Deepak Mohanty, Director Mines briefing reporters after the meeting.
It may be mentioned here that as many as 26 iron ore and manganese mining leases pending for second and subsequent renewal had to stop operation after the Supreme Court’s order. The government had passed express orders in case of eight mines. But operations of 18 mines continue to be suspended since the government did not pass similar orders to facilitate the resumption of their operation.
To decide on the fate of these mines, the state government had sought additional time of two months from the apex court in February this year. The government had pleaded that scrutiny of these cases needed more time in the aftermath of introduction of new provisions in the MMDR Amendment Ordinance, 2015. In its petition, the government had also stated it had taken enough steps to comply with the Supreme Court’s order and had even sent show cause notices to leaseholders for cancellation of the leases.
In the Mining Ordinance that came into effect on January 12 and has now been converted into an Act , the provision for renewal of mining lease was done away with and instead, all leases awaiting renewal were automatically allowed to operate till 2020 in case of merchant mines and up to 2030 for captive mines, as per Section 8 (A) 5 and 8 (A) 6 of the Ordinance, subject to fulfillment of lease conditions.
Ahead of the promulgation of the Mining Ordinance, the state government decided to auction all mining leases awaiting second and subsequent renewal to shore up revenue from the mining sector through a Cabinet decision. The decision was, however, contested by a few leaseholders in the Odisha High Court that stayed the move. Meanwhile, the new MMDR Act 2015 has made the State Cabinet decision redundant.