Fate of 29 mines hangs in balance

Bhubaneswar: Even as the State government recently asked 29 mines in Odisha to resume operations only after signing fresh lease deeds, fate of these mines has been thrown into uncertainty as the Supreme Court will decide about their reopening in the next hearing on May 11.

The apex court will hear the final report submitted by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on grave irregularities committed by these mines. In its report, the committee pointed out that majority of these mines have violated environmental and forest guidelines, Rule 37 of Mineral Concession Act and lease terms. These leaseholders are Aryan Mining, KJS Ahluwalia, KP Enterprises, Rungta Mines, OMC, Tisco and Tata.

Interestingly, the State government has asked these lessees to sign supplementary lease deeds before resuming operations at the sites. More so, two days ago, 10 mine lease-holders in Koida circle of Sudargarh district executed agreements with the State government.

According to Mines director Deepak Mohanty, some more mining companies operating in the Joda circle of Keonjhar district would sign lease deeds very soon.

Now that the government is claiming it asked the lessees to sign agreements based on the amended MMDR Act to resume operations, its contradicting version has put the lease-holders in a dicey situation that it will obey the apex court order.

Though it is presumed that the SC would follow the new MMDR Act before pronouncing the much-awaited verdict, it may not overlook the points raised by Shah Commission and the CEC. In this case, the supplementary deeds of the lessees will be null and void, mines experts say.

All these 29 mines – 21 merchant miners and eight captive mines – were closed in view of the Supreme Court judgement as their second and subsequent renewal applications had not been accepted by the government.