The hefty penalty of Rs 70,000 crore on excess ore extraction that has caught many a mine lessee off guard is poised to swell further with the state government readying to send showcause notices to 44 more lessees.
A high-powered committee of the state government had found 104 lessees guilty of raising ore beyond IBM (Indian Bureau of Mines) ratified mining plan. The mining department has already slapped showcause notices on 60 miners in Joda and Koira sectors. The penalty on the balance 44 miners has been worked out at around Rs 5,000 crore.
“The total penalty amount on 104 lessees has been worked out at Rs 75,000 crore. All major violators have been issued notices. The remaining lessees will be issued notices in due course of time. There are also 90-odd miners who have raised ore violating Air and Water Acts. The penalty amount on such lessees is yet to be determined,” said Odisha steel & mines secretary Rajesh Verma. He said, all lessees that have been sent notices will be given an opportunity to air their views.
“Following the principle of natural justice, we will allow all lessees a hearing. The steel & mines department will scrutinize any document that they will have to offer,” Verma added.
Even as miners have cried foul against the state government's notices terming it an illegitimate demand and contemplating legal action, the mining department has justified its action, arguing that the demand was well within precinct of laws and was not issued arbitrarily.
“As per Section 21 (5) of MMDR Act (Mines and Minerals-Development and Regulation), cost price of excessively raised minerals can be collected from miners, even if the state government has collected royalty, dead rent and surface rights from them,” according to Deepak Mohanty, director of mines.
Last week, Joda and Koira mining circles of the state mines department had sent notices to 60 mines under their jurisdiction for recovery of prices to the extent of excess ore raised, amounting to a total claim of Rs 70,000 crore. These miners had overshot the prescribed limit put in their mining plan approved by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) during 2006 to 2010.
The government justified its belated action saying that as IBM did not take cognizance of the plea of Odisha to book the errant miners, the government finally came up with this decision after receiving report from auditor general on why the miners should not be asked to repay the money.
The IBM had brushed off allegations saying that the state government had enough authority to curb excess mining by restricting issue of transit passes for carrying illegally mined ores.