The collection of compensation from iron ore and manganese miners in Odisha has reached Rs 112 billion as leaseholders of some inoperative mines rushed to make payments after the recent Supreme Court stricture.
In the latest round of hearing last week, the apex court had directed the state government to pull all stops to realise the dues pending on miners. The top court even offered the government the option to scrap mining leases and confiscate assets of miners who do not comply.
"Some of the mine leaseholders like Idcol (Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha Ltd) and Serajuddin & Company have made payments. Their mining operations were shut on January 1 after they failed to meet the December 31 deadline for payments. These leaseholders would now have to plead before the Supreme Court for restarting their operations," said an Odisha government official.
Apart from working mines, some 30-odd leases, which were already inoperative at the time of the Supreme Court order have also done the payments. The future of such leases would depend on consequent orders from the court.
The Supreme Court in a case of rampant illegal mining in Odisha and acting upon a petition filed by NGO Common Cause had asked the Odisha government to collect 100 per cent cost of illegally raised iron and manganese ore. The court pronounced its verdict on August 2 last year. The cost of excess production was worked out at Rs 175 billion based on the calculation done by the central empowered committee (CEC), an apex court-appointed panel to investigate into illegal mining.
After the top court's judgment, miners have pleaded for extension of the deadline for paying compensation and also allow them to make staggered payments. But, the court dismissed all petitions and did not budge from its December 31 deadline.
The court order applied to both working and non-working iron ore and manganese mines. Not all miners were able to make timely payments. Accordingly, the state government pulled the plug on operations of seven working mines with annual iron ore production capacity of about 20 million tonnes. The mines suspended were under the leasehold of state-owned Idcol, Serajuddin & Company, Mideast Integrated Steel, OMM Ltd and Korps Resources.
For Idcol, the Supreme Court has already condoned the delay in payments. Mining operations at its Roida C mines is expected to resume soon as the state government is in the process of passing suitable orders. Idcol faced a compensation burden of Rs 105 crore. Since the PSU was facing resource constraints, another state undertaking- Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) offered an inter-corporate loan of the same amount.