Reported by Chinmaya Dehury/Edited by Sandeep Sahu
BHUBANESWAR, Aug 2: Undeterred by the rebuff it received from the Centre the first time round, the Odisha government has moved the Union Ministry of Mines again making a strong case for reserving all mineral bearing areas not held under any prospecting licence (PL) or mining lease (ML) in favour of the state government PSU Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC).
“The state, being the owner of the mineral resources, has to ensure that mineral resources are applied for the overall development of the community. Such ownership also carries with it the right to reserve any mineral bearing area for exploitation in the public sector,” said SK Popli, special secretary in the Steel and Mines department of the state in a letter to Rokhum Lalremruata, Director, Ministry of Mines on July 31.
The Mines Ministry, it may be noted, had struck down a state government resolution to this effect adopted on September 18 last year saying the move would be in contravention of existing law. “The decision to reserve the area in question in favour of OMC without seeking approval of the Central government is not in consonance with Section 17 (A) (2) of MMDR Act”, Rokhum Lalremruata, Director, Union Mines Ministry had said in a letter to the Odisha Steel & Mines secretary in February this year.
The ministry had also advised the state government to decide all pending applications as per provisions of MMDR Act and rules framed there under.
Disagreeing with the Mines Ministry’s contention, however, the Odisha government has argued reserving mines in favour of OMC did not violate the rules. The September 18 resolution of last year was in consonance with the provisions of MMDR Act, 1957, Popli’s July 31 letter contended, making a case for grant of Central approval for reservation of the specific areas in favour of OMC as required under sub-section 2 of section 17A of MMDR Act.
“The stand alone mining does not contribute much to the betterment of the community whereas the reservation in favour of PSU will subserve the common good. The OMC, a wholly owned state mining PSU, would be able to make fair and equitable distribution of minerals amongst the user agencies for higher value addition,” the letter argued.