New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday asked the Sarda Mines Private Ltd (SMPL) to deposit over Rs 933 crore as penalty for illegal mining within a month to resume mining operations in Keonjhar district.
A three-judge bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Sharad A Bobde, Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant also ordered that the SMPL should file an undertaking to comply with all the rules, regulations and other mandatory provisions for carrying out mining operations and after that it can resume mining in the leased area.
The SC in its August 2017 judgement had held that those mining lease holders, who had extracted minerals either without environment clearance or in excess of approved area, would be liable to deposit the mineral so raised (or its value, if disposed of) with the state government.
“Owing to a dispute raised by some mining lease holders, including SMPL, as to whether in fact they had excavated minerals without requisite clearances, this Court referred their cases to the Central Environment Committee (CEC) for quantification of compensatory dues,” the court observed.
According to the CEC report, the M/s SMPL during the period 2001-02 to 2010-11 has produced 1,35,34,703 tonnes of excess quantity/illegal production of iron ore in violation of the environmental clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and is liable to pay Rs 933,60,79,689.
The court also noted that the committee of Justices GS Singhvi and Anil R Dave has not found the violation of Section 6 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 or of Rule 37 of Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 by the SMPL.
Earlier, seeking permission to resume mining operations, the applicant contended in the court that it is suffering irreparable injury and highlighted how it has already lost more than five and half years and how hardly six months of its lease period is left.
The state of Odisha and CEC have expressed no objection against granting SMPL’s prayer for resumption, subject to it depositing the CEC-assessed dues and strictly complying with all other mandatory rules, regulations and conditions for conducting mining operations.
Significantly, the M/s Sarda Mines Pvt Ltd holds a mining lease for Thakurani (Block B) iron ore mines at Keonjhar. Its mining operations have been closed since March 2014. The company has approached the apex court seeking directions to resume mining operations.
The apex court also permitted the M/s Mideast Integrated Steels Ltd to sell the iron ore already mined and stacked by it before January 2018, under supervision of an authority to be appointed by the state government subject to the sales proceeds being deposited with the Special Purpose Vehicle. The state government shall appoint the Supervisory Authority within two weeks and the sale process shall preferably be completed within two months thereafter.
It has been stated that a demand notice for payment of Rs 924,75,24,283 was served on the Mideast for illegal mining by December 2017. Upon its failure to deposit the claimed compensation, Mideast’s mining operations in RoidaI iron ore mines in the state were stopped with effect from January 2018. However, by then, the company had already excavated, processed and stacked 23,51,027.83 tonnes of minerals at the discharge point of RoidaI for onward transportation to various buyers as well as for captive consumption in its own steel plant.