Odisha weighs ‘alternative steps’ over mine lease deeds

Bhubaneswar: With several mining firms reluctant to go for supplementary lease deeds before restarting their mines, the Odisha government today spoke of taking “alternative steps” if companies fail to make fresh agreements within 90 days.

“We are certain that they (mines companies) will make supplementary lease deeds as they will also benefit from resumption of mining activities,” State Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick told reporters here.

On whether the government would go for auction of mines if the companies did not sign the lease deeds, Mallick said, “We will think of an alternative procedure, if required.”

The state government had extended lease period of 26 mines in the first phase on April 18 and later agreed to allow operations of three more iron ore and manganese mines which were stopped following a Supreme Court judgment last year.

All these mines were closed in view of the judgment as their second and subsequent renewal applications had not been accepted by the government.

The state government had extended the lease period of 29 iron ore, manganese, limestone and dolomite mines according to the provision of the MMDR (Amendment) Act, 2015, Mallick said.

The state has informed the Orissa High Court that lease validity period of certain mines closed since May last year following the SC order has been extended.

The HC had asked the government to implement the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance 2015 and follow the Centre’s direction in giving permission to the parties that are entitled to an extension of term of lease.

However, mines owners are reluctant to go for supplementary lease deeds in view of high payment – seven per cent of the average value of their mining (mineral excavation) plan – to be made towards stamp duty to the state government as per the amended Stamp Duty Act.

“The mine owners have moved the Orissa High Court over the state government’s revision of stamp duty and an interim stay was granted in the case. We hope the government would collect the dues as per old rates and not based on the amended rate,” said an official of East Zone Miners’ Association.

The mine companies estimated that the stamp duty charges would be nearly Rs 10 crore for production of one million tonne of iron ore.