A team of the Supreme Court (SC) appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) is scheduled to visit Odisha on June 9 to conduct an independent assessment of the status of mines under deemed extension. “The CEC had recently submitted an interim report to the SC regarding the status of mines under deemed extension based on the recommendations of the state government. Now, the members will check the status of mines for an independent assessment,” said Deepak Mohanty, director (mines), Odisha. Based on the CEC report on pending second and subsequent renewal of mining leases, the apex court had suspended operations in 26 mines in the state operating under the provisions of ‘deemed extensions’ under Section 24-A (6) of Mineral Concession Rules (MCR), 1960. The apex court in its interim order held that such mines cannot continue operations without express orders of the state government. In compliance with the SC order, the state mines department had recently passed orders for carrying on operations of eight mines. These included four leases of Tata Steel — Bamebari, Katamati, Joda East and Joda West, three of Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and one lease held by state run Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), bringing relief to captive steel makers and to an extent the end users sourcing iron ore from the state. The CEC team will try to asses the situation in respect of the affected mines in the aftermath of SC's interim order. It may be noted that the CEC in its report on illegal mining in Odisha submitted in April 2010 had pointed out the misuse of ‘deemed extension’ clause.
The committee had observed that a large number of mines have remained operational for long periods of time after the expiry of the lease period because of the delays in taking decisions on the renewal applications filed by the leaseholders. Consequently, some mines continued operations under ‘deemed extension’ for unacceptably long periods. “This provision (deemed extension clause) is not meant to be availed of indefinitely. Moreover, continuing mining over a long period of time without renewal of the mining lease becomes a potential source for serious illegalities and irregularities”, the CEC report stated. It had also found that mining activities were going on in a large number of mines in Odisha 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 of Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM).