Shadow cast over Keonjhar mines

Joda: The Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday that 100 percent penalty will be collected from mine owners/lease holders involved in the mining scam has cast a shadow over the operation of closed mines in mineral-rich Keonjhar.

The mining sector in Keonjhar has been in a slump since 2009 following the expose of large-scale mining irregularities.

The apex court ruling has triggered panic among mine lease holders, who are now in a quandary on how to pay the 100 percent penalty.  It is learnt that the state government will collect Rs 18,000 crore from mine owners.

According to reports, over 100 mines have been lying closed across the state due to irregularities and violation of statutory provisions. The Vigilance department had earlier conducted raids on various mines across the state following the mining scam. As the issue rocked in the State Assembly and Parliament, the state government had brought all mines under probe.

Then, a PIL was filed at the apex court against the state government and mine owners. The SC has pronounced its verdict Wednesday on the basis of reports of MB Shah Commission and Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the SC.

The court in its directive said 100 percent penalty will be imposed on the mine owners involved in irregularities while the lease holders will have to deposit their penalty amount by December 31, 2017. 

The SC ruling is against mine lease holders who have flouted various provisions of Forest Protection Act 1980, 21 (A) mining rule of MMDR Act and MCR Rule and norms related to environmental clearance for projects.

After two weeks, the apex court will hold hearing of irregularities committed by ML Sharda mine and Jindal and Essel mine.

The CEC in its report to the SC had proposed to allocate a major portion of the collected penalty for peripheral development, forest and environment protection activities in the mining-hit areas.

However, the SC has not made its stand clear in this matter.

Prabodh Kumar Mohanty, general secretary of Eastern Zone Mine Owners’ Association, said that the state government had claimed a penalty amount of Rs 64,000 crore from mine owners on the grounds of irregularities. “Lease holders had moved the SC against it. The SC had sent it to CEC for review.  The CEC after reviewing the mater had fixed the penalty amount to be collected from mine owners at Rs 18,000 crore. The apex court upheld it,” he said.

Mohanty said that after the SC verdict, lease holders are looking for options and started consulting with legal luminaries.

While the mine lease holders are in consternation while various quarters expressed their doubt if the lease holder will be able to pay penalty by the deadline set by the Supreme Court. PNN

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