Orissa Mining Scam: Government at fault for allowing illegal Mining
Bhubaneswar: In a clear damnation of the Orissa government, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court hearing into the allegation of forest law violations in multi-crore mining scam in the State, has said that mining activities were going on in a large number of the mines in Orissa without the requisite approvals under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, Environmental Clearances, and the Air & Water Acts. The mining activities also exceeded the production limit as approved under the Mining Plans.
In December last year, senior journalist Rabi Das had filed a case before the CEC regarding the alleged Illegal mining in the lapsed/invalid mining leases/areas in Orissa seeking appointment of a Commission to investigate and study the modalities of the illegal machinations, fix responsibility on individuals (in Government and outside it) and recommendation of remedial measures. The state has so far granted 596 mining leases for extraction of different kinds of minerals. Of this, 341 mines are operating while the remaining 255 are non working/lapsed mines.
The interim report prepared by CEC member MK Jiwrajka on April 26, also said that a large number of the mines have remained operational for long periods of time after the expiry of the lease period because of the delays in taking decisions on the renewal applications filed by the respective mining lease holders and consequently the mines becoming eligible for ‘deemed extension’ as provided under Rule 24 A(6), MCR, 1960. The CEC said that as many as 215 mines were operative for 10 to 20 years on deemed renewal status.
The major findings of the CEC are:
* In a large number of cases the forest areas approved under the FC Act are lesser than the total forest area included in the approved mining leases.
* There was lack of effective coordination and common understanding between the officials of the Mines Department and the Forest Department resulting in the ineffective enforcement of the statutory provisions.
* The “deemed extension” clause is primarily meant to deal with contingency situation and to ensuring that the mining operations do not come to an abrupt end because of administrative delays in deciding on the renewal applications. This provision is not meant to be availed of indefinitely. Moreover, continuing mining over a long period of time without renewal of the mining lease becomes a potential source for serious illegalities and irregularities.