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Ore probe cloud on port docks

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 11: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will raid stockyards of various ports to verify the export details of mined iron ore.

Around 200 mining firms had been operating in the state between 2007 and 2010, when there was a boom in mining trade. The mining scam hit the state in the last quarter of 2009.

Sources said the sleuths were likely to examine the despatch records of the railways with that of the port documents related to iron ore shipments from various ports. The ports under scanner are Paradip, Gopalpur (Odisha), Viskhapatnam, Kakinada, Gangavaram (all in Andhra Pradesh) and Haldia (Bengal). Through these ports, most of the iron ore had been exported offshore from Odisha. However, the CBI officials refused to comment on this issue.

Sources said that in a single day between September 30, 2009 and October 1, 2009, nearly 1,95,850 metric tonnes of minerals worth Rs 150 crore were exported through Paradip port. Seven ships, including Black Rose that sank off Paradip coast on September 10, 2009 while carrying 21,000 metric tonnes of iron ores, had exported the ores.

No one has come forward to claim the ore laden in the ship so far. “This is the only tip of iceberg. If the despatch records of all ships with that of the railway rakes are matched, the discrepancy can be easily detected,” said a senior official.

The information have also been shared with the Justice M.B. Shah Commission, who had visited the state last year to probe into the mining scam.

Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh said: “We will take up the issue again and demand raids on various stockyards of the ports. While the Public Accounts Committee of the Assembly had been inquiring into the mining scam on January 23, 2010, we had found huge stocks of ores on various railway stockyards. These ores might have been exported though ports.”

Mining department sources claimed to have received allegations that the single day between September 30, 2009 and October 1, 2009, when 1,95,850 metric tonnes of minerals were exported, a stock of around 23 lakh metric tonnes of iron ore was lying with various shipping agents on the Paradip dockyards. At the mechanical siding, there was a stock of around 8,60,000 metric tonnes of iron ores while 442 truckloads of ores unloaded at Paradip stockyard and also there was a stock deposit of 15,67,000 metric tonnes of iron ores at the manual siding.

“As many as 840 cases of mining theft was reported and 34,638.34 metric tonnes of minerals were seized in 2009-10,” an official said.

However, another official said the government had initiated many steps to check the illegal transportation of ores. “We have already introduced the IT technology in a bigger way to track the mineral movement. The bar code system has already been implemented which will show how much minerals are being lifted and where these are being taken,” he said.

Now, all the 14 mining circles in the state have been connected with the State Area Wide Network technology and all the tendering and mining lease work is being done on line,” he said.