In the wake of the Supreme Court (SC) issuing notice to Odisha on illegal mining cases, the SC appointed central empowered committee (CEC) has sought details of mining leases from the state government operating with or without statutory approvals.
The CEC has asked for a detailed information on the mining leases to Odisha chief secretary J K Mohapatra, in a letter dated April 21. A crucial meeting of the CEC is scheduled on Thursday where Mohapatra and some other top state officers will participate.
The apex court had directed CEC to submit a report on the probable interim orders that it could issue to deal with problems posed by illegal mining in Odisha. The committee has wished to know the factual position of mining lessees that have obtained approval under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and have secured environment clearance. Also, the state government is to furnish a list of such leases that are devoid of such statutory clearances.
Further, the state government is to present before the CEC a compiled list of mining leases that have the necessary approvals under different mining laws and also the ones without such clearances.
Touching on the sensitive issue of mining in proximity of wildlife sanctuaries and parks, the CEC had called for information on leases operating within a radius of 1 km of such protected areas.
The state government has also been directed to provide information on mining leases lacking statutory approvals but functioning under the directions of the SC or the Odisha High Court.
In its report on illegal mining in Odisha in April 2010, the CEC had held that mining activities were going on in a large number of mines in the state without the requisite approvals under Forest (Conservation) Act-1980, environmental clearances and air & water Acts. The mining activities also exceeded production limit as approved under the Mining Plans.
In its report, the CEC pointed out the misuse of ‘deemed extension’ clause in Odisha under Rules 24-A (6) of Mineral Concession Rules-1960.
Organised illegal mining is taking place with the active support of the state government and has resulted in the breakdown of the constitutional machinery, the CEC report stated.
While the CEC had acknowledged corrective steps taken rather belatedly by the state government, it had drawn the government’s attention to deal with serious shortcomings on a priority basis to ensure strict compliance with provisions of Forest (Conservation) Act-1980, Environment Protection Act and other statutory provisions.