A report released by the M. B. Shah Commission might change the face of the mining industry in the Indian state of Odisha. The exhaustive document with almost five volumes claims both the central and state governments are connected to illegal activities.
Several mines are now likely to face temporary closure after the commission’s analysis on illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore in the state, Business Standard reports. The group has also asked the state government to expedite the recovery of 59,203 crore Rupees paid by mine owners, so they could raise ore beyond the approved limits.
Regarding the case, a mining expert and former director of mines with the state government said that:
The Shah commission’s recommendations are likely to trigger temporary closure of many mines. This in turn would have wide repercussions on the local economy as it would lead to unemployment. The state government will be in a quandary as well since it has allowed mines to operate without environment clearance and also issued permits for transport of excess ore and collected royalty on them. Again, it is the state government that has permitted mines to operate under ‘deemed extension’ for long periods and so the lessee cannot be faulted.
The same expert also claims the commission’s recommendation of auctioning of mining leases is not legally tenable, mainly because there is no such provision under the Mines and Minerals – Development & Regulation Act.
However, despite all the revelations, the state government doesn’t seem concerned about the Shah Commission’s report, at least according to this source:
Unlike Karnataka and Goa, the scenario in Odisha is different. We have taken all possible steps to contain illegal mining. More than 200 mines have been suspended for want of statutory clearances. Demand notices to the tune of 65,492.73 crore Rupees have been sent to the miners for recovering cost of overproduction. The government has been unable to collect the penalty as some miners have challenged the matter in the revision authority under Union mines ministry.
Besides the measures already listed, the commission is recommending several other changes to the Indian industry. One of them is the sale of iron ore in the state through e-auctions. Nevertheless, the state government has already taken steps in this regard and is awaiting consent of the Supreme Court appointed Central empowered committee to enforce the system on private lessees.
The commission has also recommended jail time up to six months for offenders of mining and environmental laws, with or without penalty. Other advices include capping of iron ore production and shutting down mines running without the necessary clearances.