Supreme Court slaps 100 percent penalty on illegal mining in Odisha

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Report by Malaya Mohapatra, Bhubaneswar: All eyes was on the Judgments of the Supreme Court on penalty for illegal mining which was kept reserved after the hearing which has ended a month back.The Supreme Court on Wednesday said mining companies that had been operating without necessary clearances in Odisha would be subject to a 100% penalty on the price of the ore that had been illegally extracted. The bench also called the government’s policy on mining outdated and directed it to frame a new policy by December 31, 2017, to protect India’s natural resources for future generations. “The facts revealed during the hearing of these writ petitions filed under Article 32 of the Constitution suggest a mining scandal of enormous proportions and one involving megabucks,” said the bench, headed by Justice Madan B Lokur. “Lessees in the districts of Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj in Odisha have rapaciously mined iron ore and manganese ore, apparently destroyed the environment and forests and perhaps caused untold misery to the tribals in the area.”
In 2009, allegations of multicrore mining scam roared the Odisha assembly and Parliament for which Justice MB Shah Commission was assigned to probe illegal mining in Odisha,Goa, Karnataka and other areas. While the investigations in Odisha was going on the State Govt in Nov 2012 issued penalty notice of about 60,000 crores on different lessees of Joda and Koira sector. The Shah commission took note of the fine imposed and recommended for its recovery. Subsequently, a Public Interest Litigation case was filed by Common Cause, an NGO represented by Prashant Bhusan, which demanded action against illegal mining pointed out by the Justice MB Shah Commission. The violations primarily involved companies that had illegally mined ore in excess of the quantum permitted under the forest or environmental clearances.
The court had through an expert committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge had directed to identify the lapses that have occurred over the years that have enabled rampant illegal and unlawful mining in Odisha. The panel was also asked to recommend preventive measures not only to Odisha, but to all states in general.

In 2014, a Central Empowered Committee under the Supreme Court had found that 102 of 187 iron and manganese ore mining lease holders did not have the requisite clearances. According to the CEC, 2,155 lakh million tonnes of iron and manganese ore had been extracted without environmental clearances, a figure the court called “frightening.”

Looking beyond Odisha, the court, in its order, also pointed out that the Union government does not have an effective mining policy. It said that the one that does exist only on paper “and is not being enforced perhaps due to the involvement of very powerful vested interests or a failure of nerve”.It directed the Centre to develop a new mining policy, one that takes into account “the advent of rapacious mining in several parts of the country”, calling for the new law to be “more effective, meaningful and implementable”. All major mining companies including Aditya Birla, TATA,JINDAL,RUNGTA,SAIL,OMC,SIRAJUDDIN and even small mining lessees are going to suffer heavily due to this penalty leading to collapse of several mining companies, a mining expert commented. Hence a big blow to the Odisha Mining Industry.

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