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Archives for : Ministry of Mines

#India – Data fudged for mining clearance #WTFnews

Sugandh Juneja [1]

Issue Date:

Iron ore mines in Goa also concealed facts to get environmental clearance, shows report

Goa has incurred a loss of 35,000 crore because of illegal mining

SEVERAL mines in Goa fudged data in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) to get clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), shows an analysis by Gujarat-based Centre for Environment Education (CEE). Several others did not provide crucial information on land use pattern, water resources, biodiversity and air quality in EIA, it shows. Concealment or providing false information in EIA contravenes the EIA Notification 2006. Though CEE is yet to make the report public, its executive summary is available with Down To Earth.

In 2011, following public demand, the Goa government asked CEE to assess the quality of EIA reports of 105 operational iron ore mines. CEE was also asked to examine whether the projects complied with environmental clearance (EC) conditions and took adequate steps to implement environment management plan (EMP) to mitigate the impact of mining. CEE experts analysed 95 mining projects and visited 17 mining sites between 2011 and 2013.

The CEE analysis comes as a blow to Goa’s mining industry, already under fire from Justice M B Shah Commission. The commission was set up by the Union Ministry of Mines in 2010 to look into illegal iron ore and manganese mining in the country. In its report submitted to Parliament in September 2012, the commission stated that Goa incurred a loss of Rs 35,000 crore due to illegal mining. Following this, the state banned mining and MoEF kept all ECs for mines in Goa in abeyance.

The summary of CEE report says that while going ahead with mining, hardly any leaseholder followed the process of public hearing adequately. Only one of the 96 projects assessed held public hearing at the project site. This when the EIA Notification states that the hearing should be conducted at the project site or as close to the site as possible.

To avoid seeking clearance from the National Board of Wildlife, leaseholders fudged distance of mine lease boundary from protected areas, notes the summary.

Because of mining, air pollution, water pollution, water turbidity and siltation of streams have increased in the state. Mining has also resulted in declining groundwater table and reduced agricultural productivity. Yet, these aspects were not discussed in the EIA reports, notes the summary. It further notes that EMP implemented by the mine leaseholders were inadequate to mitigate these impacts, particularly abating air pollution, waste dump management and managing traffic burden due to truck movement.

Earlier, Madhav Gadgil, the ecologist who oversaw the analysis, had said in his draft report, that mining waste is turning into a major problem in Goa. So far, MoEF has granted ECs to 182 mines in the state with an annual production capacity of 70 million tonnes. For every tonne of iron ore mined in Goa, three tonnes of waste is generated. This translates into 200 million tonnes of waste earth annually. “It is necessary to consider the cumulative environmental impacts of such a huge turnover of soil in an ecologically sensitive area like the Western Ghats,” Gadgil said in his draft. Besides, EC granted to a mining project allows dumping mining waste outside the mine lease area, whereas the Indian Bureau of Mines, which approves the Mine plan, does not allow this. Gadgil thus suggested that leaseholder should seek separate EC for dumping mine waste outside the lease area.

CEE recommends establishing local committees to monitor whether mine leaseholders are complying with EC conditions. It also recommends capacity building of government departments to provide a mechanism whereby the state government may first review the EIA report and ask for revisions before passing it to MoEF for review. The consultant preparing the EIA report be held responsible for the data, states the summary.

“Mining in Goa shows the way EIAs are being conducted. We need to make the clearance process transparent and accountable,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment. “We also need to make local communities stakeholders in the clearance process,” he adds.


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Shah Commission wound up before it could probe illegal mining in Chhattisgarh #WTFnews

Issue Date:

As environmental groups appeal against termination of commission, Supreme Court asks government to respond by November 18

Darbu along with other affected  
village residents made the rounds of Union Ministry of Mines; they want Shah  
Commission to probe mining in Bastar Darbu along with other affected residents of villages in Bastar made the rounds of Union Ministry of Mines last month; they want Shah Commission to probe mining in their region

It does not always happen that people approach the government for extending the tenure of a commission of inquiry. So, last month when Mehtu Ram Darbu from Antagarh village in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region and three other village elders from the region travelled to Delhi to persuade the Union Ministry of Mines to extend the tenure of Justice M B Shah Commission, it spoke volumes about the damage caused by mining to the region.

The commission, which has exposed hundreds of cases of illegal mining of iron ore and manganese in Karnataka, Goa [2]  and Odisha since it was set up in 2010, was supposed to visit Chhattisgarh around the end of this year. Bastar residents allege that state-run mining companies are dumping iron ore fines (waste) in adjoining rivers and are damaging their agricultural land and forests. They had pinned their hope on the commission. But on October 16, the Centre refused to give an extension to the commission. Worse, it did not state a reason for doing so.

For three days, Darbu and the other village elders tried to get past the corridors of power to reach the office of joint secretary of mines Naresh Kumar to understand the reason and submit their plea. While Kumar was not available, a ministry official informed that environmental and agricultural degradation due to mining did not fall under the purview of the commission. This is when the terms of reference of the M B Shah commission clearly stated that the commission would enquire into illegal acts of mining “in terms of destruction of forest wealth, damage to the environment, prejudice to livelihood and other rights of tribal people, forest dwellers and other persons in the mined areas”.

Government lie exposed

Upon enquiring about the reason, the Union minister for mines, Dinsha Patel, told Down To Earth that Chhattisgarh was the only major iron ore-producing state that remained to be probed by the Shah Commission. But more than 90 per cent of iron ore in the state comes from public sector undertakings and the presence of the private sector is negligible. State-controlled mining is not under the purview of the commission, he explained.

Patel’s claims, however, are belied by what is happening on ground in Chhattisgarh. In the memorandum submitted to the Ministry of Mines, Darbu and the other village elders have pointed out how the government-owned Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) is expanding its mining area, paving the way for private companies. For instance, on the one hand, BSP wants to open up mineral deposits in the Rowghat Hills in Bastar, claiming that it faces a shortage of iron ore.

But on the other hand, it is relinquishing its lease of the Kacche mines at Ari Dongri in neighbouring Kanker area to a private company, Godavari Ispat Limited, saying that the quality of ore in Kachhe is substandard and that the mine was unprofitable for BSP. This contradicts what the Indian Bureau of Mines’ (IBM) Regional Development Plan says. According to the plan document, the quality of ore in the Kacche mine is high grade hematite ore, which contains more than 65 per cent iron, and is compatible with BSP’s expansion requirement.

It seems the government is also promoting private miners in the state. Of the 21 iron ore prospecting licenses sanction by the government, 17 are for private companies, which include Tata, Essar, Sarda Energy and Godavari Power, according to the state’s Department of Mining.

Activists contest decision

Neither the state nor the Centre has been paying attention to rampant illegal mining in Chhattisgarh, says Alok Shukla, convener of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, a non-profit working on the environment and human rights in the region.

On October 21, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, along with Samaj Parivartana Samuday of Karnataka and Goa Foundation moved the Supreme Court, seeking further extension of the commission. The Supreme Court has asked the Ministry of Mines and the Union Cabinet to respond to the petition by November 18.

Prashant Bhushan, legal counsel of the non-profits, says, “The decision not to grant extension to the Shah Commission is clearly malafide since it had become clear that the work of the commission was affecting the interests of big corporations and mining barons, as well as of the top politicians and ministers in the country.”

Shukla cites the example of the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), which is illegally dumping thousands of tonnes of iron ore fines into the Indravati, Shankhini and Dankini rivers in Bailadila area in Bastar. It is also releasing effluents into the rivers. “In 1990, the Centre’s science and technology cell (now the Department of Science and Technology) reported that mining activities of NMDC had damaged not only the rivers but also affected 35,000 ha of agricultural and forest land around Bailadila,” says Shukla.

At present, 18 leases have been sanctioned for mining iron ore from 8,758 ha in Chhattisgarh. Twelve of these mines are in Bastar. Dantewada (which is part of the Bastar region) is the top iron ore producing district in the state, accounting for 69 per cent of the total output, say officials of the Mining Department. “For these mines, tribals have been displaced from their land illegally, in contravention of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996 and the Forest Rights Act of 2006,” says Shukla. According to the Forest Survey of India, 62 per cent of Bastar is under forest cover. About 79 per cent of the region’s population comprise tribals, shows the Census of 2011.

Industry pressure?

In 2010, when the commission came into existence, Justice Shah and his team were supposed to visit seven states—Karnataka, Goa, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. So far, it has submitted final reports for Karnataka and interim reports for Jharkhand, Goa and Odisha, according to minister Patel. The reports unearthed cases of illegal mining worth crores of rupees in these states.

Activists allege that the pressure from the mining industry had been immense on the Shah Commission. Consider this: on February 26, the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) filed a lawsuit against the Commission in Delhi High Court, days before Justice Shah was to conclude his probe into illegal mining in Odisha. FIMI alleged that the commission was conducting its inquiry in an “arbitrary and whimsical manner and without the authority of law”.

The bone of contention here was that the mining industry was not given enough time to present its case before the commission. So, on March 14, a special hearing for mining companies was organised at the commission’s headquarters in Ahmedabad on the alleged violation of Rule-37 under the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960. A battery of eminent lawyers, including Ram Jethmalani, Gopal Subramaniam, A K Divan, U U Lalit and Pinaki Mishra, representing various mining companies put forth their arguments, following which Shah Commission included their representations in its report.

A press note issued by the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan states that some of the commission members, including Justice M B Shah, have also indicated their frustrations in dealing with the Ministry of Mines. In three years, the commission perused thousands of papers from various state and Central departments. By its own admission, the Ministry of Mines while granting extensions to the commission twice stated that there were inordinate delays by various state governments in sharing papers related to the mining of iron ore and manganese. Yet, the one member commission has been questioned over and again in case of Goa, Karnataka and Odisha about its methodology to determine illegality of mining. The Shah Commission, however, meticulously brought the rot in the iron ore and manganese mining sector out in the open.

Be it state-sponsored mining or mining by private companies, the Shah Commission’s reports have wreaked havoc on illegal mining syndicates across the country. “The commission’s findings on Goa, Odisha and Karnataka has upset the applecart. By terminating the commission and not offering any rationale to do so, the government has shown that it doesn’t want some of the illegalities in mining to be exposed,” alleges  Xavier Dias, director of Bindrai Institute for Research Study & Action (Mines Monitoring Centre), Ranchi.

Probably, this is the reason the ministry did not specify reasons for terminating the commission. U V Singh, a retired forest official from Karnataka, who was the principal investigator with Shah Commission, had told Samantha Aggarwal of Chattisgarh Bachao Andolan that the Ministry of Mines granted two extensions, once on September 16, 2012 and then on July 16, 2013. Since the commission was yet to begin its investigation in Chhattisgarh, it was assumed that the ministry would give it further extension. Besides, Singh had informed that the termination of a commission of inquiry as per the Commissions of Inquiry Act (1952) can only be done if the ministry provides written reasons as to why the commission is no longer required. But neither the Union Cabinet nor the Ministry of Mines offered a sound reason to terminate the commission.


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Myanmar lifts BAN on journals after protests #CENSORSHIP #GOODNEWS

Journalists pose with a shirt during a protest along the streets of Yangon, August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

YANGON | Mon Aug 6, 2012 6:51pm IST

(Reuters) – Myanmar‘s government has agreed to lift suspensions on two weekly journals within two weeks, their editors said on Monday, just days after rare protests by journalists in two cities to demand more press freedom.

Editors of the Burmese-language Voice Weekly and The Envoy told Reuters that Myanmar’s censorship board had informed them they could resume publishing by August 18, without giving a reason for why the suspensions would be lifted.

Publication of the journals was halted indefinitely late last month, promoting an outcry among journalists who are enjoying freedom to publish not seen under the five decades of authoritarian military rule that ended in March last year.

The quasi-civilian government has loosened its grip on the press as part of a surprise reform drive. But some press censorship still remains and journalists pushing the boundaries of the restrictions have complained that suspensions are tantamount to intimidation.

Nearly 100 journalists rallied against the suspension in Yangon on Saturday and about 60 protested in the second-biggest city, Mandalay a day later, most wearing black T shirts saying “stop killing the press”.

“The reason for lifting the suspension, I think, would be because of the rallies by the journalists,” said an editor of another journal, who asked not to be named.

Monday’s edition of the Messenger journal blacked-out its entire front page and cited a line from the constitution that guarantees freedom of expression.

The Nation journal went a step further, uploading on its Facebook page what it said was a censored copy of its front page story of the protest, which was covered with crosses in red ink.

It was not known exactly why the two publications were suspended. The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, as the censors are called, said they had “violated rules and regulations”, without elaborating.

The Voice is also facing a lawsuit, lodged by Myanmar’s Ministry of Mines, after it published a report alleging graft by ministries under the previous government.

Myanmar’s government has insisted it will scrap censorship as soon as a press law is promulgated, but journalists are concerned some restrictions will remain and recommendations for the legislation might be ignored.

The government’s mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar, carried an editorial in its Sunday edition, apparently in response to the protests, calling for patience and reiterating that censorship would soon be abolished.

It said the country was “not still accustomed to the freedom we have not enjoyed before” and to “rush could ruin results.”

(Reporting by Thu Rein Hlaing; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Lane; Editing by Ed Lane)

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