The State-owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) is the biggest violator of mining laws so far as engagement of contractors for raising minerals is concerned.
“Exploration of minerals by other than the lessee is violation of Rule 37 of the Mineral Concession Rule, 1960,” Justice M B Shah observed during the fourth day of hearing of the lease holders on the illegal mining in the State.
OMC Managing Director Saswat Mishra on Saturday admitted before the commission that the State PSU has engaged contractors in all its mines for raising and transportation of minerals.
“This is violation of Rule 37,” the commission said and asked the OMC to reappear and clarify its position on the breach of Mineral Concession Rule 37 on the March 16 hearing, scheduled in Ahmedabad.
Responding to a query of the commission on the status of mines leased out to OMC, Mishra said of the 39 mines, only a few (two iron or and two iron ore and manganese mines) are functional and others have remained idle due to lack of statutory clearance and approved mining plan from the Centre.
On the fourth day of hearing, the OMC, as the largest lease holder of iron and manganese mines in the State, appeared before the commission through their counsel U Lalit, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court.
Expressing displeasure over keeping a large number of mines idle, Justice Shah remarked that why should OMC hold so many leases when they are not able to manage it?
On the State Government’s argument that mines were handed over to OMC where mining lease period has expired, the commission said this has been rightly rejected by the Centre.
Members of the commission raised queries on unlawful mining in Khandadhar reserve forest and other reserve forest areas, violation of mines and forest laws and Pollution Act.
Appearing for the State Government and the OMC, U Lalit argued in support of enhanced royalty on minerals and 50 per cent tax on super normal profit earned by mine owners, regulation on excess production of minerals, ban on mineral export, transporting of mineral by rail instead of roads and leasing out of mines through competitive bidding.
Complaining about delay in obtaining statutory clearances from the Centre and renewal of mining lease, Lalit and the OMC MD told the commission that the satellite maps prepared by the State Government need fresh verification.
The commission said many of these demands have been rejected by the Centre.
Editor of local daily ‘Sambad’ Soumya Ranjan Patnaik submitted before the commission that the probe be extended to areas which are not leased out for mining and requested exploration of all non- working mines in the State in the interest of the State.