Gorumahisani Iron Ore Mines under scanner in Mayurbhanj

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By Our Correspondent

BARIPADA/BHUBANESWAR: The mining lease of Gorumahisani Iron ore mines spreads over 349.5 18.4 area owned by Kolkata based M/s Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons and run by Jagadish Mishra with a capacity of 0.75MT is expiring by March 31, 2020 but sources said, the company is missing no stone unturned to continue its illegal mining business and transportations in mineral rich Mayurbhanj districts without any fear. “Mining auction is going on in Odisha but looting of minerals is also going on,” sources said on Monday.

Sources also said that M/s Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons owns mining leading from the front, violating all norms of Forest and Environment and Mines and Minerals Act, looting minerals worth crores of rupees. ‘A CBI raids at Mines located in Rairangpur –Baripada circle of Mayurbhanj, offices at Kolkata  in West Bengal and Bhubaneswar in Odisha would unearth many more scandals of M/s Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons,” added an activists Bhubaneswar. “We would write to CBI, ED and Odisha Steel and Mines Minister to look into the matter, added Suvendu Nayak,” a local resident in Rairangpur in Mayurbhanj said.

Local residents in Rairangpur, Baripda regions alleged that with help of some corrupted officials in Steel and Mines Department and local political leaders, M/s Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons continued their illegal mining work without any fear and Company owned mines creating a lot of air and water pollution while company has no respect for labour laws, forest and environment laws.

Supreme Court empowered CEC had also fined M/s Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons for illegal mining while several cases have been pending against the Mines firm in Odisha State Vigilance Department.With plea of “consent to operate’, M/s Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons mines continued their illegal mining in broad day light. Forest and Environment laws have been violated at Company while local Odias not getting proper recruitment in the plant.

Besides, sources said the local transporting licence holders were ignored, improper mining done for which iron ore fines lie scattered creating environmental hazard besides making paddy land unfit for cultivation etc.The Central Empowered Committee of the Apex Court in its interim report had said mining activities were going on in a large number of mines in without requisite forest and environmental clearance.

The studied silence of Naveen Patnaik led BJD Government in Odisha over illegal mining activities has raised many eyebrows.  “Due to deforestation in various hills, 80 per cent of streams have gone dry. The water flow in Deogarha’s Padhanpata, Sundargarh’s Khandadhar and Keonjhar’s Sanaghagara and Badaghagara waterfalls has decreased by 50 per cent in last 10 years,” an wildlife activists said in Bhubaneswar.

“ The Government had earlier admitted that the water-flow in the Padhanpata waterfall at Deogarh had decreased drastically due to destruction of forests. But on the contrary, it showing favour to M/s Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons,” they said.

Locals in Baripada mining circle however expressed concerns over the dwindling of the wild animals and the increasing man-animal conflict in human habitations due to water and fodder scarcity in jungles and hills. “The residents will suffer acute water scarcity in near future due to illegal mining work of M/s Ghanshyam Mishra & Sons,”

This apart, company played a key role in Odisha mining scam and violated Mines and Minerals Act, Mines and Minerals Regulation Act of 1957’s section 21. The company involved in illegal mining, theft and transportation. The company has violated pollution control act of 1986, air pollution control act of 1981, water pollution control act of 1974 and forest rights act of 1980.

Companies were supposed to extract mining with clearance of air and water pollution control under various acts like Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and consent to operate under the Water (PCP) Act, 1974 and Air (PCP) Act, 1981.

The firm has been violating forest and wildlife laws .The Company, which is also creating air and water pollution while defying orders of Odisha State Pollution Control Board and Union Forest and Environment Ministry. Action should have taken against the company under Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and Odisha Forest Act-1972 and Mines and Minerals Act. But instead , the company got extension to run its closed mines.

Company which operating without valid consent to operate should have been issued closure directions or will be prosecuted as per the provisions in Water (PCP) Act, 1974 and Air(PCP) Act, 1981.While granting “consent to operate”, it will be ensured that the proponent has obtained all other statutory clearances under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.The Company has no respect to labour laws, they said.

The leases have been either granted or extended to firms for mining iron ores without either any fresh evaluation or adopting the auction process. We sought directions for recovery of market value of the mined minerals in accordance with the law.

Meanwhile, several wildlife and social activists have sought a court-monitored probe into the extension of lease and allotment of the mineral mines for free of cost alleging that it had caused huge financial loss to the public via a concocted conspiracy.

“Within the principle upheld by the Supreme Court in its previous judgement, no natural assets can be allotted/extended free of cost. Impugned extension is contra to the law of the country. No where in the Act, it says to extend the lease free of cost. At least value of extension must be decided as per the maximum rate of auction value by the state or by another state government during these period,” they said.

They argued said that loss caused to the exchequer is liable to be recovered from the mining firms and their leases are liable to be quashed and the mines be put to fresh auction.They also demand quashing of section 8A of the MMDR (Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.Section 8-A of the Act provides that all mining lease should be granted for a period of fifty years and on expiry of lease period, it should be put up for auction as per the procedure specified in the Act.

“We suspect that a large amount of political donation has been given by the corporate miner for the impugned provisions (of MMDR Act) for extension of the mining lease as free of cost from escaping auction process which is also a subject matter for CBI investigation and calling list of mines from all states for further action,” they said.

According to official sources , all old lease of the minerals mining, except coal block, has been extended for further 5 to 20 years under the garb of the amendment of 2015 without charging any cost/ premium and fresh value to pay for mining while new mines has been put up for auction which were auctioned for 80 per cent to 110 per cent premium other then royalty .

The quantity of ore that is to be extracted every year specified in the mining plan which is approved by IBM. Forest and environment laws have been violated installing screening plants without statutory clearance. No action has been taken by any of department state and center excess mining of the specified limit violating operating conditions, assessing impact on the local environment, grabbing unauthorised forest land.

 94 of the 192 iron ore mining leases in Odisha do not have the mandatory environmental clearances. And of the 96 that have them, 75 have mined far beyond their permitted levels over the past several years, says the Justice M.B. Shah Commission report.

The exhaustive five-volume report lays bare how the mines have continued to use a loophole in the law for years and flagrantly violate environmental and other norms to pump out iron at a time when international prices of the metal are booming.

The report says 56 mining leases operated close to identified wildlife areas without adequate protection to the animals. The mandatory forest clearances had not been obtained in several cases. Waterbodies in and around 55 mines have been polluted. Water has depleted in natural streams in some cases and forestland impacted adversely in several others. A mining-project within a 10-kilometre vicinity of a protected wildlife area requires mandatory clearance from the National Board of Wildlife, which too was not obtained in several cases.

It has recommended that the entire extraction in all cases, where leases are operated without mandatory environmental clearances, be treated as illegal and the market value — domestic or export — recovered from the defaulting miners.

With no political parties raising the issue of corruption and irregularities in Odisha during the campaigning for the last Lok Sabha polls and Assembly, apprehensions are being raised if culprits will ever be brought to book.Probes into Rs 3 lakh crore mining scam have slowed down in the last couple years, raising doubts about a tacit understanding among the leaders.

The CEC, in its interim report, had revealed that a large number of mines operated in Odisha after the expiry of mining lease period on the provision of deemed extension of mining lease as no decision was taken on application filed by the lease-holders for renewal of the leases.It found that at least 163 mining leases operated without the requisite approvals under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980; environmental clearances, Air and Water Act or approved mining plans.The CEC also found that out of the 596 mines, as many as 307 mines consisted of either wholly or partly forest areas.

The Odisha government, in its reply furnished to National Mines Tribunal (NMT) in 2013 had admitted the illegalities committing in mining activities and stated that it had slapped Rs 65,000 crore penalty on 196 mine owners who allegedly indulged in illegal and over-extraction of minerals, mainly iron ore. Challenging the state government’s decision to impose penalty, many mines owners have gone to the court.However, the state government’s lack of seriousness to pursue the case has resulted in a paltry recovery of the penalty.

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