Recover Rs 60k cr from Odisha miners: Shah Commission

New Delhi: About Rs 60,000 crore should be recovered from miners for illegally mined iron and manganese ores, the high-level Justice M B Shah Commission report on illegal mining in Odisha has said.

The Shah Commission has severely indicted both the Centre and the Odisha government on illegal mining of iron and manganese ores in its 5-volume report and has asked the state government to recover over Rs 59,203 crore from the miners.

“All modes of illegal mining” are being carried out in the state and “it appears that law has been made helpless because of its systematic non-implementation”, the Commission has said.

It has also recommended using the recovered amount for the development of two districts, Keonjhar and Sundergarh, “which are badly affected by illegal excess mining”.

It also found large scale violation of environment and forest laws, rules and notifications.

Out of 192 mining leases of iron and manganese ores in the state, “130 lessees are/were noted to be doing production without lawful authority” in violation of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notifications 1994 and 2006.

Moreover, 94 mines were found to be operating without environment clearance (EC), while 96 obtained delayed ECs, the Commission said. “Overall, 109 mining leases are/were working under deemed extension and doing production in violation of EIA, 1994 and 2006.”

According to the Commission, iron ore worth over Rs 45,453 crore and manganese ore worth over Rs 3,089 crore has been extracted “illegally and without lawful authority” by the miners in Odisha in violation of EC conditions alone.

It has also traced freight evasion cases by iron ore exporters, who move the mineral under domestic movement category by showing false excise certificates and recommended that the Railways should ask CBI to investigate the cases.

For movement of iron ore, the Railways has two tariff structures — domestic (having lower tariffs) and other than domestic (having higher tariffs). By 2010-11, charges for domestic movement of iron ore was one-fifth of that of other than domestic.

According to the Commission, the Railways has informed that notices have been sent to 14 companies for recovery of Rs 1,874 crore on account of freight evasion.

All mining leases should be granted via auction route only, including those mines where leases are not renewed and are operating under deemed extension route or which are coming for first, second or third renewal, the Commission said.

Noting that the Odisha government has sent 146 show cause notices to mining lease holders for excessive production between 2000-01 and 2009-10, the Commission said, “it is apparent that there must be unlawful mining… Value of the unlawful extraction of iron and manganese ores comes to Rs 59203,33,13,342 (i.e about Rs 59,203 crore).

“Let the state government recover the said amount by finalising the proceedings on the basis of the notices as early as possible and use the said amount for the development of the two districts, namely, Keonjhar and Sundargarh, which are badly affected by illegal excess mining.”

The Commission said it has also come across “one of the biggest illegal mining ever”, worth over Rs 2,000 crore, in the Uliburu Reserve and Revenue Forests. The case be handed over to the CBI for further inquiry, it said.

The state forest department filed a case with Judicial Magistrate (First Class), Barbil on December 2, 2011, the Commission said.

It added: “The case was filed before the JMFC and others mainly to cover up such a big scandal and for finding a way out to escape. Such a large magnitude of illegal mining cannot take place without a conspiracy…

“Since this is one of the biggest illegal mining ever observed by the Commission, it is strongly felt that this is a fit case to handover to CBI and follow up action.”

It has also recommended to handover all cases to the CBI “where the FIRs were registered by Police, Vigilance, Mines, Revenues, Forests and other departments” from 2008-2011.

“The state police may not be able to do justice with the quantum of illegalities due to mighty lease owners, political leaders and officials at higher ranks,” the Commission said.

Noting that its members themselves had seen the big amount of pollution in the mining areas, the Commission said that “instead of being eco-friendly, the trend of the lessees has been dollar friendly, so that they can earn super normal profits by exporting iron ore”.