Reacting to a writ petition filed by the Rourkela Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) at the high court over a state government notification on mineral trade restriction, the government maintained that the steps taken are well within the precinct of the law and are legal, reasonable, and meant to sub-serve the interest of mineral development and the society at large.
The state government recently directed the advocate general to start filing a counter affidavit against the petition while taking into account its position on the restriction notification. “Sub rule (15) of rule 10 of the Orissa Minerals (PTS) Rules, 2007 made under the section 23C of the MMDR Act, 1957, fully authorises the state government to impose restrictions on transportation with a view to checking illegal practice in such activities,” said the government in its commentary to objections made by RCCI .
In December last year, the state government decided not to issue any trading licences for mineral transshipment and also barred trader-to-trader mineral sale through a notification. It said the stockyards used for transshipment have been main source of illegal mineral trading.
RCCI challenged the restriction notification in April this year saying that such step taken by the government would affect the mineral consuming industries which do not have captive mines, because of one or two mischievous traders.
“Most of the traders were facilitating end users who do not have access to mines. They were not engaged in trader-to-trader sale or transshipment. The government's prohibition on trading license is affecting the economy and the industry as well,” said Sunil Kayal, vice president, RCCI.
However, the mines department said neither the traders nor the interim stockyards where they stored the minerals are important for mineral processing industries.
“Such interim storage depots are practically of no importance to the mineral sector. Closure of interim storage depots would, therefore, have no impact on consuming industries. Rather, illegal mining activities would remain much under control,” the government argued.
The high court will fix a hearing date after receiving the counter affidavit of the government. The state government has been on the offensive against the miners and mineral traders since 2009 when massive illegal mining cases surfaced.
Apart from ordering a vigilance probe, the state steel and mines department has shut down several mines on non-submission of statutory clearances.
It has also started digitization of mines maps, truck transit passes and streamlined the entire transportation of minerals through the internet by accessing data from mineral production site, check gates, the railways, ports and commercial tax department.