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Crackdown on rogue mining firms
- Districts told to study leases, monitor company activities

Ranchi, Nov. 16: The state government has decided to tighten the noose around companies that extract ore in excess of what has been specified in their leases in violation of Indian Bureau of Mines and environmental norms.

Last week, the mines and geology department issued a directive to mining officers in districts to get details of companies and their activities.

The mining officers were asked to look into the quantity of ore the companies were allowed to mine, validity of environmental certificates and whether production plans had been submitted to the mines bureau or not.

A.K. Sarkar, additional chief secretary who also holds the mines portfolio, confirmed the development and said that district mines officers had been asked to ensure that companies operated within the specified parameters failing which the state would impose heavy penalties.

Earlier this month, Odisha imposed Rs 67,900 crore penalty on 103 mines, including the Tatas, for excess production of iron ore, but denied the existence of a scam. It, however, blamed the mining bureau for its failure to detect the irregularities.

Tata Steel was imposed a fine of Rs 6,000 crore.

Justice M.B. Shah Commission, appointed by the Centre, is also probing cases of illegal mining in Jharkhand. The commission visited Ranchi, Chaibasa and several mining areas of West Singhbhum in March.

As reported in The Telegraph, at least four firms were found extracting iron ore and manganese in excess of sanctioned capacities in West Singhbhum reserves since 2008 right under the nose of the state mining department and Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB).

Among the erring companies were Usha Martin Limited (Bijaya-II), Shah Brothers (Karampada), Padam Kumar Jain (Thakurani) and Orissa Manganese Minerals Limited (Ghatkuri iron ore).

But Sarkar maintained he had told the district mining officers to study the records thoroughly before reaching a conclusion on whether the companies were indulging in over-production of iron ore.

The additional chief secretary said he had asked the mining officers to slap huge penalties if companies were found to have violated norms.

In a letter dated May 15, 2012, Sudhir S. Shah, secretary to the Shah Commission of Enquiry, pointed out “huge difference” in data of production/dispatch of iron ore between the mines bureau and the state mines department from the year 2006 onwards.

“The difference is as high as more than five million tonne for the year 2010-11,” he told chief secretary S.K. Choudhary.

The commission also asked the state government to undertake a proper inquiry to find out the anomalies, but so far nothing concrete has happened.