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MoEF not to relax norms for mining leases executed after Feb 1

Move to hit coal blocks of JSPL, Monnet Ispat

Jayajit Dash  |  Bhubaneswar 

In a move that may spell further trouble for the beleaguered coal blocks, the Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF) has ruled out a relaxation of two years for obtaining clearance for the entire forest land within the lease area if mining lease (ML) is not executed before February 1, 2013.

The latest order from MoEF is bound to affect coal blocks in Odisha where allocatees are yet to obtain the forest clearance. According to the state forest department sources, Utkal B1 block allocated to Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) and Utkal B2 block won by Monnet Ispat & Energy will suffer because of the MoEF directive.

“The relaxation provision of additional time of two years will not be applicable to those mines in whose favour approval of central government has been granted under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of a part of the forest land located within the mining lease but new lease has not been executed before the issue of this ministry’s guidelines dated February 1, 2013,” H C Chaudhury, assistant inspector general of forests, MoEF said in a letter to R K Sharma, principal secretary (forest & environment), Odisha.

In its guidelines dated February 1, last year, the MoEF pointed out that mine lessees have to obtain clearance for the entire patch of forest land in their leasehold area before applying for renewal of expired leases. The ministry had allowed two years’ time to the lessees to get the forest clearance. “The above view of the ministry clarifies that the relaxation period of two years granted by MoEF in their guidelines dated February 1, 2013, for obtaining forest clearance for entire forest land within the mining leases would not be applicable to leases granted under Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act including the cases of Utkal B1 coal block of JSPL and Utkal B2 coal block of Monnet Ispat & Energy Ltd for which lease has not been executed before February 1, 2013,” S S Srivastava, special secretary (forest & environment) wrote to G Srinivas, the state steel & mines secretary.

The coal ministry last week served an ultimatum on developers of 61 captive coal blocks, including six blocks in Odisha, allowing them three weeks to obtain necessary approvals and present documents supporting progress made in developing the blocks.

The ministry’s letter clarified that coal blocks that are yet to obtain environment and forest clearance will be de-allocated. Also, the blocks without prospecting licence (PL) or those blocks, where geological reports have not been prepared after receipt of PL, run the risk of de-allocation.

In Odisha, notices have been issued to Radhikapur (east), Utkal B1, Utkal B2, Utkal C, Rampia and dip side of Rampia and Mandakini coal blocks.

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First Published: Mon, January 20 2014. 20:27 IST