In Keonjhar district, 21 lessees including top miners like Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Ferro Alloys Corporation (FACOR) and state-run Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) are in the defaulters’ list.
“Prosecution may be filed against the defaulting mining leases immediately and copies of the complaint filed in the criminal court be submitted to this department without further delay,” S B Samant, director (environment) wrote to the Keonjhar collector. Sail’s Bolani iron ore mines and Facor’s Katasahi manganese ore mines are in dock for EP Act violation. Six leases of OMC- Bansapani iron ore mines, Rantha iron ore mines, Gandhamardan iron ore mines, Sakradihi iron ore mines, Balda Palsa Jajang iron ore mines and Dubna manganese ore mines are facing same charges. Other violators include Prabodh Mohanty (Unchabali iron ore and manganese mines), Odisha Minerals Development Company — OMDC (Roida Bhadrasahiiron ore mines, Arjun Ladha (Balaguda iron and manganese ore mines) and Kalinga Mining Corporation (Jurudi manganese ore mines) to name a few.
The state government is presumably responding swiftly to the recent suggestion of the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF). The ministry had asked the state government to initiate action against the mining companies named in the Shah Commission’s report for violating environment laws. The commission, in its report, noted 94 mines were operating without environment clearance (EC) while 96 others obtained delayed ECs
The MoEF is also understood to have asked the state government to explain the reasons for delay in filing cases against the errant miners for EP Act violation. As many as 110 mine owners are in dock for violation of EP Act, 1986. The miners are facing prosecution for raising ore beyond the approved limits of the Act and also for continuing mining operations without environment clearance. For EP Act violation, the state government is empowered to take action against the offenders by invoking powers under Section 19 of the Act. Under this Act, a district collector is empowered to take cognizance of the offence and initiate legal action. The MoEF had decided earlier that in all such cases involving violation of the EP Act, environment clearance will be issued only after the state government concerned has initiated credible action on the violation and evidence is provided to the ministry of the credible action.