By Our Correspondent
BARBIL/KOIRA/BHUBANESWAR: With Odisha Government and Union Mines Ministry gearing up for auctions of 31 mineral blocks in Odisha, those will expiry by March 31, 2020, illegal mining continued to unabated with Serajuddin & Company leading the list. In 2022, lease of another three-four mines would expire. Among the 31 leases including several of Serajuddin & Company headed for expiry by the end of March 2020, there are 17 iron ore leases whose annual production capacity totals to 66 million tonnes.
The Serajuddin & Company has been alleged of illegal mining, forest rights violations, labour laws violation and mines and minerals act in Odisha’s Keonjhar-Sundargarh-Jajpur Iron-Ore and Manganese belt. The Apex Court had imposed fine of near about Rs 800 crore for illegal mining and other violations.
The blocks in question are non-captive leases due to expire as per the provisions contained in the amended version of Mines and Minerals- Development & Regulation (MMDR) Act, 2015 and with less time in hand, Serajuddin & Company leaving no stone unturned to excess mining violating lease provisions, said a local activists in Keonjhar.
The urgency to ready the mineral blocks for auction stems from the recent notification of the Draft Mineral Concession and Development- MCDR (Amendment) Rules, 2018, by the Government of India, so mine owners now illegally exploiting State’s mineral resources, added a wildlife activists in Rourkela. Odisha with 45 and 31 mining leases respectively.
This will be the first instance of organised auctions in terms of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, which repealed an Ordinance. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on March 3, 2015, and by Rajya Sabha on March 20. It received the President’s assent on March 26 and was gazetted on March 27. It was made clear that it would be deemed to had come into force from January 12, 2015.
“We are in support of the demand that auctions of mining leases, as a result of which new ‘owners’ would emerge on the scene, should not mean shrinkage of job opportunities. Another demand is that the workers now involved in raising iron ore should continue. This objective should be borne in mind by the new ‘owners’ if they contemplate further mechanization of operations, but Serajuddin & Company has no respect for it,” added a Trade Union leader in Koira in Sundargarh.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Sarfaraz Alam, a partner of the mining firm, issued a public notice , declaring the dissolution of the partnership with his brother and cousins for the company.
Alam, who held a 12.5% stake, now wants the Odisha government to stop all mining activities by the firm. Otherwise, he had said, he would be “constrained to approach” the High court of Odisha.
Disputes arose after Sarfaraz Alam was sidelined by the other partners due to issues with his health. Consequently, our client initiated appropriate legal proceedings against the other partners seeking various reliefs and asking for his lawful entitlement .. which were denied to him,” Changez Khan, a partner at the New Delhi-based legal firm, had told Economic Times few weeks back.
The other six partners have now announced, through a newspaper advertisement, that they have unanimously decided to expel Alam.
Alam first sent a notice to the partners on July 13. He followed that up with a letter to Odisha’s directorate of mines arguing that on dissolution of the partnership firm, “any extraction of iron ore would amount to a violation of the Indian Partnership Act, 1932 and also the terms of the mining lease granted in favour of the dissolved firm, Serajuddin & Co”.
The lease was granted an extension in December of 2017, until March 2020. Balda iron ore mine was operated by Mining Contractor B Prabhakaran’s Thriveni Earthmovers Pvt Ltd.The mine has a capacity to produce 15.5 million tonnes of iron ore a year. That is about half the iron ore produced by state-owned miner NMDCNSE 2.19 % from all its mines put together in fiscal 2019.
“If the partnership deed is silent on the duration and determination of the partnership, then it is to be considered a partnership ‘At Will’, which the 1 October 2011 deed was. Under Section 43 of the IPA (Indian Partnership Act), my client has dissolved the partnership after giving due notice to the other partners,” said a source .
The firm has seen family members come and go over the years. Before Alam, it was Eklahqul Rahman who would accuse the partners, including Alam, of denying him his rights. According to Rahman, his father, whom he had lost as a child in 1992, once held 29% of an earlier avatar of the partnership.
During his years-long battle for the rights he believed he should have inherited, 35-year-old Rahman had sought a copy of the partnership deed from the state government, but been denied it on grounds that it would impede an ongoing vigilance probe started in 2009