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Case twist in Chiria tussle

Ranchi, Nov. 5: Jharkhand has turned up the heat on Steel Authority of India, with which it is involved in a long-haul battle over the iron ore-rich Chiria mines.

West Singhbhum district mining officer R.N. Prasad, has sought the state government’s permission to lodge a criminal case against the steel PSU for alleged violation of the Mineral Concession Rules.

Prasad was apparently not satisfied with the reply to the showcause notice that he had served on SAIL in June.

The officer had sought an explanation from the PSU on why it was undertaking mining operations in Chiria when the state government had granted the mining lease to Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO).

SAIL, in its reply, had pointed out that IISCO had already merged with it. Hence, SAIL was looking after all activities of IISCO, including its mining operations. “But SAIL’s explanation failed to cut much ice with Prasad and he now wants the state government to permit him to start criminal proceedings against SAIL,” sources said.

Prasad admitted having sought the go-ahead to start a criminal case against SAIL. The officer’s contention is that the government had granted mining lease to IISCO at Chiria. There has been no application from IISCO requesting for the transfer of the mining lease to SAIL after the merger.

“Hence SAIL’s mining activity at Chiria at present is against the provisions laid down in Article 27 (1D) of the Mineral Concession Rules of 1960. So criminal proceedings should be initiated against the company,” Prasad said.

Mining department sources said chief minister Madhu Koda had been apprised of the matter. The department is awaiting Koda’s nod before giving any instructions to the mining officer.

SAIL officials maintained that the company was unaware of the recommendations of the mining officer. “But was there any need for such recommendations' The Prime Minister’s Office has already intervened to end the stalemate between the state government and SAIL on Chiria,” said an official of the PSU.

The state is keen to get control of the Chiria mines keeping in mind the MoUs it has signed with steel majors, notably Mittal-Arcelor.

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