Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 29:
With the Damocles’ sword hanging over its head in the form of the explosive report of the Justice MB Shah Commission on the massive mining scam in the state, the BJD government has embarked on a fresh round of coercive action against mining companies to prove its credentials as a government that does not brook any wrongdoing.
As part of the charade, the state Forest and Environment department has directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) to withdraw forest clearance from the working mines, if they fail to pay their net present value (NPV) towards forest land diversion by February 28.
“In respect of cases where the defaulting lessees are continuing working in the mine, the lessee may be directed to deposit the balance of NPV within a period of 30 days failing which government may be moved for withdrawal of the forest clearance granted to the lessee in respect of working mines,” said state forest and environment secretary R K Sharma in a letter to PCCF.
“It is essential to take vigorous and proactive steps for realisation of the unpaid amount of NPV along with interest,” Sharma said in the letter. The government has decided to realize the pending amount with nine per cent interest, said sources.
The letter further said that the fact of default of the NPV by any lessee not running a mining project may be reported to the Steel and Mines department to refuse the renewal of mining lease (RML) applications unless the lessee deposits the NPV dues.
“In case of lessees not operating any mines whether applied for renewal or not, steps may also be initiated for recovery of the balance NPV through certificate cases,” the forest secretary said.
According to Steel and Mines department sources, 54 mines are being run under deemed extension while 323 mines have sought renewal of their leases.
“Since deposit of due amount of NPV of forest land of the ML forms a part of statutory clearances for operating the said mines and non-payment of NPV for entire forest land of the lease also amounts to violation of order of Supreme Court,” said a letter addressed to MCL.
It is to be noted that the state government has proposed to spend about Rs 801 crore from the additional NPV for the development of the livelihood of tribals and infrastructure development of the mining areas. The Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court has also asked the government to strengthen it as the NPV may go up in the coming days.
The state government has already formed a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to spend the additional NPV in the region for the development of tribals. It has also prepared a project report, which is awaiting final approval of the MoEF to spend the fund in seven mineral bearing districts.
Though the Supreme Court ordered the recovery of the outstanding NPV dues collected from miners for forest land diversion to facilitate exploration of minerals, of such companies amounting to a whopping Rs 813.46 crore way back on May 7, 2010, it is only now that the government has chosen to wake up. The NPV amount is used for afforestation and development of mineral bearing areas.
Interestingly, the state run Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) is the biggest defaulter, with dues running up to Rs 276.90 crore to the department. The defaulters include some of the biggest central PSUs ing miners like Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL).
The department, it may be noted, had recently asked collectors of the mineral rich districts to recover the amount from the miners.