Auction of mines in the offing

Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court’s verdict on Thursday cancelling 49 mining leases with maximum illegalities in Karnataka and asking the Monitoring Committee for a fresh auction of these, has increased manifold the auction chances of most mines in the state after Justice MB Shah hinted similar ‘mining irregularities’ by lessees.
 
On April 12, during the third phase hearing of lessees in Ahmedabad, the Shah Commission chief had said, “In most of the cases we have found violation of environmental clearance (EC) that means they (lessees) have not taken the EC.  Also in some cases forest clearance (FC) are not obtained….We are just finalising it after verifying from the parties.” 
 
Though the probe panel had expressed confidence of submitting its final report to the central government in mid-July, the SC verdict has left the mining lease holders in a tizzy. 
 
“Looking at the verdict, its implications will be definitely on all states including Odisha. But we believe mining operation will continue in our state and no cancellation of mines like situation will arise as no lessees have worked beyond lease areas,” Prabodh Mohanty, spokesperson for East Zone Mining Association (EZMA) said.
 
Amid the SC ruling of mining cancellation for maximum illegalities in three Karnataka districts and resumption of activities in 63 cases, the Steel and Mines department is too hopeful that the lease holders will be allowed to resume excavation of ore in their respective areas.
 
“The mines under ‘C’ category in Karnataka were continuing operation sans EC and FC. But in Odisha we don’t think such cases exist,” Director of Mines, Deepak Mohanty said.
 
The apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) had categorised mines in the aforesaid districts of Karnataka in three categories: A, B and C. Mines in which there were few or no irregularities were categorised as A and those with maximum illegalities were placed in category C. 
 
Category B mines include those where illegal mining was observed to be up to 10% beyond the mining lease areas or where waste dumps outside the sanctioned lease areas were found to be up to 15% of the lease areas.
 
Notably, there is no provision for auction of mines in the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957 and a Bill seeking to make comprehensive changes in the Act is now before the concerned Parliamentary Panel. 
 
During Shah Commission’s Odisha visit, while the panel had served notice to 168 lessees to put forward their views, it later allowed physical verification of nearly 50 mining areas after some lessees raised question on the authenticity of Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS).