Mining ban on IMFA: Aberration in pollution board’s approach questioned

Cuttack: As livelihood of thousands is threatened with a halt in operations at India Metals and Ferro Alloys’ (IMFA) Therubali and Choudwar plants following the mining ban ordered by Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB), questions are being raised on the pollution watchdog’s approach while ordering ban.

While only notices have been served to Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for violating guidelines; the ban on IMFA’s Mahagiri and Sukinda mines has been ordered without even conducting a personal hearing on the matter.

As per information obtained through a RTI query, since 2012, OMC has been operating its effluent treatment plant (ETF) south Kaliapani mine without upgrading. Even after repeated directions, OMC has failed to comply, revealed the data.

Despite such violation, the OSPCB extended the deadline for compliance till March 31, 2017. What is even more surprising is the fact that the effluents released by the mine include the carcinogenic (cancer-causing) Hexavalent chromium element which has been affecting the locals.

However, not ordering a ban on the OMC mine despite such hazardous violation has raised questions on the deviating standards being followed by the pollution panel.

“The mines are asked to prepare the ETFs depending upon the effluents they are discharging and it is mandatory for every mine to follow these guidelines. In this case I am not aware of the matter and could only be able to give details if I have the information,” said Senior scientist at the OSPCB, Nihar Ranjan Sahoo.

Commenting on the matter yesterday, Odisha Steel and Mines minister Prafulla Mallick said, “The mines were closed after the order of the OPCB and the matter is now in court which will decide what needs to be done. Government will be impartial.”