In a bid to liquidate its stock of calibrated iron ore lumps and fines stacked at its Gandhamardhan mine lease area in Keonjhar district, the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) has decided to approach the Supreme Court to permit it to apply for forest diversion for the entire forest area within the lease.
OMC has approximately 112,000 tonnes of calibrated iron ore lump and three million tonnes of fines at its Gandhamardhan-A mine lease area which had been legally raised from the approved forest area of Gandharmardhan-B mine lease.
However, sale of this stacked ore to various industries of the state has been prohibited by local forest department authorities, citing want of necessary permission from Government of India under Forest Conservation Act-1980 to use the said broken-up forest area of Gandhamardhan-A mine lease for non-forest activities such as ore stacking, weighing, sale and despatch.
It has been decided at a recent meeting under the chairmanship of state Chief secretary B K Patnaik that OMC should approach the Supreme Court, requesting permission to retain the entire forest area of 519.74 hectares within the Gandhamardhan-A mine lease area of 618.57 hectares. The state mine PSU wold also seek the apex court's nod to apply for forest diversion for the entire forest area excluding 117.96 hectares for which State-I approval has already been granted by Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF).
On being permitted by the Supreme Court, the forest diversion application of OMC for the remaining forest area of the mine lease would be duly processed by the state forest department as per law for approval under the Forest Conservation Act-1980.
This apart, OMC would also approach the Supreme Court, seeking permission to weigh, sell and despatch the iron ore stock of Gandhamardhan-B presently accumulated in Gandhamardhan-A mine lease area.
In 1988, OMC had applied for forest diversion approval for 216.36 hectares of Gandhamardhan-A mine lease area including the broken-up forest area.
However, due to movement of elephants, the state government recommended only 117.96 hectares for diversion and recommended diversion of the balance forest area in the next renewal period.
The matter was then disposed off by the Supreme Court whereafter (MoEF) granted Stage-I approval on February 17, 2009 for 117.96 hectares leaving aside the crucial area which was being used for stacking, weighing, sales and despatch purposes.
In the meantime, OMC has prepared a Wildlife Management Plan (WLM) by engaging an outside professional agency covering the total forest area of 519.74 hectares coming within the Gandhamardhan-A mine lease area and 10 km buffer area around this mine lease.
The WLM has been duly vetted by Wildlife Institute of India-Dehradun on November 25 last year. The plan covering the entire mine lease area, provides mitigative action to be taken in the above area with an outlay of Rs 6.29 crore over a span of 10 years for conservation, protection and improvement of forest habitat and elephant migration paths.