The Supreme Court will now decide the fate of 18 lapsed mining leases in the state, including two belonging to Tata Steel, which hoped to restart operation by virtue of the Mines and Minerals Development & Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 that automatically renewed leases of merchant mines till 2020 and that of captive mines upto 2030.
These mines had shut operations in May last year on the basis of the apex court order. The 18 mines were operating on the basis of deemed extension clause of Mining Concession Rules (MCR) pending their second and subsequent lease renewal. The court observed that such operation without valid lease terms was illegal.
The court will decide about their status next month, when the time period allowed by it to the state government for taking decisions about the lapsed leases ends on February 12.
"It is for the SC to decide what to do about the leases because in the new law, there is no provision for renewal. The state government is in a fix whether to go with the court order or to comply with MMDR ordinance," said a government official.
In the MMDR ordinance the provision of renewal of mining lease was done away with and instead, all leases awaiting renewal were allowed to operate till 2020 in case of merchant miners and up to 2030 for captive mines. The state government objected to the new provision, citing the top court order in May last year, which had directed it to take a decision on whether to accept or reject the renewal applications of 26 mines. Though the deadline to comply with the SC order expired in November, the state government has sought extension till February 12 this year."We were worried what will we do regarding SC direction about pending renewal application since the MMDR ordinance, which has no provision of renewal (of leases), has become the law of the land. The Union government has asked us to send our queries in writing and they will come up with directions after consultation with the law ministry as per the rules," said Deepak Mohanty, director of mines with Odisha government after meeting with joint secretary of Union mines ministry here.
The Central ministry had organised an orientation workshop here today, to discuss and clarify doubts regarding the new mining law. However, no consensus could emerge after the meeting, since the state government officials are waiting for the top court direction to go ahead with the implementation of the ordinance.