The Supreme Court today completed hearing on a crucial case of illegal mining in Odisha. The apex court, has, however, reserved its interim order.
The state government had earlier drawn flak from the Supreme Court appointed central empowered committee (CEC) for misuse of Rules 24-A (6) of Mineral Concession Rules-1960 allowing the mine owners to operate under 'deemed extension' for long periods after expiry of their lease period.
In its last hearing on April 21, the Supreme Court had directed the 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 court's direction was in the wake of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO (non governmental organization) Common Cause.
Acting on the court's direction, the CEC had asked for a detailed information on the mining leases in a letter to Odisha chief secretary J K Mohapatra dated April 21. The CEC had sought to know the factual position of mining lessees that have obtained approval under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and secured environment clearance. It had also called for information on mining leases operating within one km radius of national parks and sanctuaries and the ones functioning under directions of the Supreme Court or the Odisha High Court.
Later, the CEC submitted its report to the apex court on April 26 after conducting a hearing with top Odisha government officials and representatives of mine owners on April 24.
In its response, the Odisha government had clarified that all the 53 operating iron ore and manganese mines have the necessary statutory clearances.
Out of these, nine were within the original lease period, three were operating after first and second renewal and one lease was in operation after third renewal.
As many as 37 mines are working under 'deemed extension'. While 13 mines were operating under first deemed extension, 10 are under second, 12 are under third and two mines are operating under fourth extension respectively.
In its recent judgement on iron ore mining in Goa, the court had said that all mining activities under the deemed extension clause, after the end of first renewal period of 20 years, are illegal.