The state government justified the imposition of Rs 70,000 crore fine on various iron ore and manganese mine owners accused of excess mining and said, the notice sent to the miners in this regard was well within precinct of laws and was not issued arbitrarily.
Many miners who were served notices, including the main opposition party Congress had said that this order was “arbitrary” in nature and can be challenged in a court of law since the government has already collected royalty over the excess mineral raised. “As per 21(5) of MMDR Act (Mines, 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,” said 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 raised minerals beyond their prescribed limit put in the mining plan approved by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) during 2006 to 2010.
The government justified its belated action of recovering money saying that as IBM did not take cognizance of the plea of Odisha to take action against the 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 that it did not take any action against the mine owners and had passed the buck to the state government saying that the state government had enough authority to curb excess mining by restricting issue of transit passes for carrying illegally mined ores.
The government admitted the incident happened because of lack of coordination among various departments involved. “There was no coordination between IBM, mining circles and state mining department when transit passes were issued. Also, different mines changed their mining plans in course of time, according to which the transit passes were issued, but that does not mean the errant miners cannot be brought to book at a later period” Mohanty said.
Meanwhile, the illegal mining enquiry agency Shah Commission has finished verifying records of more than 110 mines so far, including 91 made in the last visit in October. It on Tuesday reviewed six mining records of Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL).
The Commission acknowledged it has received reports of state government asking miners to pay for excess raising quantity and said they are taking note of it. “We are aware of the notices and are taking not of it. But we cannot comment about it right now,” said U V Singh, head of the visiting probe panel.