A two-member team of the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) today held talks with over 10 mining companies on availability of statutory clearances, encroachment and subletting of leased property.
The CEC may visit Odisha yet again and take up field visits of mines before submitting its report on the status of mining to the Supreme Court by the last week of July, state officials said. “The CEC members said they would like to go for a field visit before submitting the complete report, if required. They are currently verifying all the data and information provided to them. Before submitting the report, they might hold discussions with state government officials and mine lease holders again,” said Deepak Mohanty, director of mines (Odisha).
The CEC inquiry follows a Supreme Court order passed on April 21 this year. In that order, the top court had asked CEC to submit status of illegal mining in Odisha based on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Common Cause via activist and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Prashant Bhushan.
The petitioner had sought the permission of the apex court to ban mining in Odisha in line with Karnataka and Goa based on findings mentioned in the Justice M B Shah Commission of enquiry. While the top court court has passed interim orders to ban mining in 26 mine leases, complete hearing over the matter is pending.
After its two-day stay in the state, the CEC has sought details of violation as per Rule 37 of Mineral Concession Rules (MCR)-1960, a provision that bars leaseholders from sub leasing or transferring control without prior government permission. “Though the state government had earlier found eight lessees violating Rule 37, the CEC today asked us to examine the cases of four more mines,” Mohanty said after attending a meeting of the CEC members and mine leaseholders here. Out of the eight mines who have been detected of violating Rule-37, six have already challenged the charges and moved the revision authority under the Union mines ministry. The CEC today sought details of contractual partnership between Sarda Mines and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) as their agreement is under the scanner.
The panel also called raising contractor Thriveni Earthmovers along with mine owners such as KJS Ahluwalia, Indrani Patnaik, and Sirajuddin for questioning Rule 37 violation.
Representatives of few other mining firms such as Aditya Birla Group’s Essel Mining, Rungta Group, Mesco, Tata Steel and Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) also met the panel members today to discuss their cases. The CEC enquired about information related to status of various clearances such as surface rights, lease agreements, forest, environment and pollution control board clearances, details of iron ore and manganese production since 2001-02 against corresponding permits during the visit, said a source.