Illegal mining: State revenue dept seeks report from Keonjhar collector

Bhubaneswar: The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Revenue department on Wednesday sought reports from Keonjhar collector over the alleged illegal iron ore excavation by B K Mohanty Mines in a forest land adjacent to its mines boundary in the district.
 
It was alleged that in the Uliburu forest, B K Mohanty Mines had excavated illegally in 35 hectares of which 6 hectare falls in reserve forest. The remaining 29 hectares are owned by the revenue department.
 
Investigations have revealed that the area where mining operations were carried out did not belong to the area leased out to B K Mohanty Mines. The mining was being done by shifting the boundary pillars to adjacent Uliburu reserve forest.
 
Interestingly satellite image shows Deepak Gupta, who was accorded power of attorney by B K Mohanty Mines to carry out operations in the leased area, had built railway siding and roads outside the leased area.
 
Revenue Minister SN Patro said, “I have already asked the Principal Secretary to get an inquiry report from the collector who will visit the spot within 72 hours. We will take necessary action as per the rules.”
 
When enquired about the allegations PCCF Priyanath Padhi said, “If anyone breaks the land without authority, it is illegal and punishable under Odisha Forest Act. We have already filed a case. I will ask for a detail report from DFO.”
 
According to section 24-A-1 of Mineral Concession Rule 1960 the lessee should apply for renewal before one year of  expiry of the lease agreement. If there is any delay, the government has the power to consider for deemed extension of the agreement.
 
However, in this case BK Mohanty Mines mentioned in the affidavit while according power of attorney to Gupta that the lease period expired on 12.12.2003 and it applied for renewal on 8.12.2003. 
 
On the other hand, though the Mines department in its June 2012 report, showed that there had been mining outside the leased area, it did not lodge a theft case against the company. The department only fined Rs 856.93 crore for excess mining.
 
Clarifying on the issue Steel and Mines minister Rajanikant Singh said, “We have cancelled the trading licence of Deepak Gupta and Deepak Steel and asked other leaseholders not to give iron ore to these companies. No new agreement will be signed with the aforesaid companies.”
 
Justice M B Shah Commission, which is probing into illegal mining activities in the state, has already sought clarification on activities of B K Mohanty mines.
 
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