Top companies — such as SAIL
Steel, the Aditya Birla
group’s Essel Mining
Mining Corp — are among the 70 that have violated environment
and forest laws
, the M B Shah Commission
on illegal mining in Odisha has held.
Large-scale violation of environment and forest laws have taken place in Odisha since 1994-95 and most of the mining lease holders violated these in some form or other, it said.
The Commission has estimated iron ore worth Rs 45,453 crore and manganese worth Rs 3,089 crore have been extracted by miners “illegally and without lawful authority” by violating conditions of Environment Clearance (EC) alone.
It added the value of illegal production would increase considerably if other factors, including consent to operate, production without mining plan/scheme, were considered.
Of the 192 mining leases of iron and manganese ores in the state, 94 do not have an EC. Of the 94 mines that do not have an EC, 78 extracted iron and manganese ores between 1994-95 and 2011-12, worth thousands of crores.
Moreover, 96 leases obtained delayed EC approval but carried out mining during the period.
“Totally 130 lessees are/were noted of doing production without lawful authority of iron and manganese ores (which includes 109 leases running under deemed extension also) in violation of Environment Impact Assessment notification, 1994 and 2006,” it said.
The Commission added: “All such production is to be considered as illegal and without lawful authority. The market value for iron and manganese ores is required to be recovered under the provisions of Section 21(5) of the MM(DR) Act, 1957.”
The Odisha government-owned Odisha Mining Corporation’s (OMC) 8 mines are also in the list of 94 mines, which did not have EC approval. Of this, 2 mines — Sakradihi and Balda- Palsa-Jajang carried out extraction without EC.
Moreover, OMC obtained delayed EC approval for 14 of its mines and most of them carried out mining during the period.
Orissa Mineral Development Corporation (now part of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam), Rungta
Mines Group, BPMEL, Kalinga Mining Corporation, Sarda Mines, Tarini Minerals, B D Patnaik, Aryan Mining and Trading Corporation Pvt Ltd are also on the list of violating or not taking approvals.
Other big miners in the state that are on the list for violating norms include Indrani Patnaik, Serajuddin & Co, R P Sao, Patnaik Minerals and S N Mohanty.
An Essel Mining spokesperson said: “The issues raised by the Shah Commission are subjudice and therefore, it is inappropriate to comment at this stage.”
Comments from other companies could not be obtained.
The Commission has also flagged Environment Ministry and Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), a multi-disciplinary body under the Mines Ministry, for giving approvals without any checks, and failing to protect environment and conserving the ores.
“The permission granted so far for the extraction of 154.263 million tonnes by IBM and MoEF, if taken into consideration and achieved, then the reserve would last only for 30 years in the state for good quality ore,” it said.
Talking about violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and guidelines issued by the Supreme Court, the Commission said that out of 192 mining leases, 176 are in dense forest.
Ministry of Environment and Forest has not given approval to 98 leases for diversion of forest area and 47 mines, out of 98, are/were operating without forest clearance (FC), it said.
The Commission has recommended recovering market price from the mines, which are/were operating without obtaining FC.
“There is gross misuse of deemed refusal and deemed extension of both the provision of renewal of leases. This casual and negative approach has caused dearly to State exchequer in the form of hundreds of crores of stamp duty and others,” it said.
In all, 147 cases, renewal applications have not been decided. Of this, in 86 cases, the delays have been between 5- 20 years, it said, adding that “the sufferer is the government and such long delay breads corruption at all level”.
Talking about casual attitude of MoEF officials, it said that in 16 leases, where the forest area was involved, EC was granted without forest clearance.
Moreover, in 56 mining leases, EC was granted without stipulating any condition for wildlife.
Of 98 leases, 31 are adjacent to the elephant corridor in Sundergadh and Keonjhar districts and due to mining, there has been “vast destruction of standing corps, huts and human habitat by elephants”, the Commission said.
Criticising IBM, it said that the government agency modified mining plan twice or more for 41 leases and gave approval to 53 leases for modification with retrospective effect.