Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, Feb 27:
The Supreme Court today allowed the Odisha government an additional two months’ time to decide on the fate of 18 iron and manganese ore mines in the state which are awaiting second and subsequent renewal.
The Supreme Court’s order came on a petition moved by the state government seeking two months’ time to scrutinize whether the lease conditions of the remaining 18 mines were violated or not as per the provisions in the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Ordinance, 2015.
In its interim order dated May 16 last year, the top court had asked the state government to take a decision regarding the renewal of 26 iron and manganese ore leases within six months and had suspended operations of these mines. At the time of the apex court’s order, these leases were awaiting second and subsequent renewal.
Complying with the apex court’s order, the state government had passed express orders to facilitate resumption of mining activities in eight mines. But no decision was taken on the cases of the rest 18 mines for which the state government had sought more time. Responding to the state government’s request, the top court extended the deadline till February 20.
In its latest petition filed earlier this month, the state government had said it had taken enough steps to comply with the SC order and had even sent show cause notices to leaseholders for cancellation of the leases. However, the new provisions in the MMDR Amendment Ordinance had tied its hands, the government had stated.
In the Mining Ordinance that came into effect on January 12, the provision for renewal of mining lease was done away with. Instead, all leases awaiting renewal were automatically allowed to operate till 2020 in case of merchant mines and up to 2030 for industrial users having 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 through a Cabinet decision, decided to auction all mining leases awaiting second and subsequent renewal to shore up revenue from the mining sector.
But the state government’s decision was contested by a few mining lessees in the Odisha High Court that has granted a stay on the move till March 11.