A mine in Saranda
Ranchi, May 29: A commission set up to investigate the scourge of rampant illegal mining has slapped a showcause notice on the Jharkhand government seeking an explanation on how four firms were allowed to extract iron ore far in excess of stipulated limits in the Saranda region between 2008 and 2010.
In a letter dated April 30, 2012, the commission headed by retired judge M.B. Shah has given the state mines and geology department 15 days to come up with a satisfactory reply on the violation, the extent of which was reported by The Telegraph last month.
“It has been alleged that four mining firms in Jharkhand — Orissa Manganese and Minerals Ltd, Padam Kumar Jain’s Thakurani Mines, Shah Brothers and Usha Martin Co. — have produced and dispatched excess quantity of iron ore than the permission granted under Environmental Protection Act, 1986, and MCRD rules, 1988,” said the letter, written by registrar Sudhir S. Shah, on behalf of the chairman of the commission, M.B. Shah.
“It has been alleged that though the matter pertains to 2008, 2009 and 2010, no action has been taken by the department so far despite being in the know of the facts fully. These mines were/are running even after the illegalities committed without auction under the law,” added the letter, which has been sent along with copies of newspaper reports on the matter.
In a report published on April 25, The Telegraph had highlighted how the four companies had been pilfering iron ore in large quantities, at least two to seven times more than the approved limit, for the past three fiscals in the Saranda region.
Successive reports, also published in this paper, further highlighted how the two monitoring authorities, the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) and the state mines department, had failed to do their job because of non-co-operation and a communication breakdown between them.
And as a result, both the JSPCB and the mines department kept blaming each other while illegal mining went on unabated in the Saranda region that is now at the centre of a Union government-sponsored development initiative.
“All these published reports were compiled along with facts obtained after invoking Right To Information Act by someone and was forwarded to the Shah Commission. We got to know this because the reports have been appended to the commission’s letter,” said an official in the state mining department.
However, the mining department was yet to respond to the first letter. Sources in the department said the Commission sent a follow-up letter on May 12, seeking answers.
While earlier additional chief secretary A.K. Sarkar, who holds the mining portfolio, confirmed receiving the showcause, adding they would act accordingly, when contacted by The Telegraph today, mines director B.P. Singh said the district mines officer had been told and a reply was awaited from him.
The Centre set up the Shah Commission to investigate large-scale irregularities in iron ore and manganese mining in various states, including Jharkhand, in November 2010.
During his visit to Jharkhand, Shah conducted public hearings in Ranchi and Chaibasa, the West Singhbhum headquarters, on April 13 and 14.
Although the turnout for the hearing in the state capital was poor, he had told The Telegraph that the commission would take into account mining and prospecting licences awarded to 21 companies in Jharkhand between 2003-04 and 2007-08, many of which were later found to be frozen.
The commission had also visited Saranda before returning to Delhi.