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Noamundi mine faces closure

- Forest department slaps use-by-September 5 notice on Tata Steel

Ranchi, Aug. 18: Tata Steel’s Noamundi iron ore reserve faces imminent closure with its temporary mining permit set to expire on September 5, much in the manner in which SAIL’s Gua ore storehouse had to be closed after clearances lapsed on August 14.

Chaibasa divisional forest officer S.R. Natesh said they had already served a notice to Tata Steel informing the company about the September 5 expiry of forest clearances given by the Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF).

“The forest clearance of Tata Steel is valid till September 5 after which they would not be able to execute any mining activity. A notice has been served on the company in this regard,” he told The Telegraph.

A Tata Steel official on condition of anonymity admitted the company had approached the state government.

“We will also meet the same fate as SAIL’s Gua iron ore reserves if the government fails to extend the lease period. We are hoping for a positive outcome,” he said.

The Noamundi mines, located around 126km from Jamshedpur, is one of the best open cast iron ore mines in the world with state-of-the-art mining operations, says the Tata Steel website.

Tata Steel has only one working iron ore mine in Jharkhand in the form of Noamundi in West Singhbhum district. It is in the process of developing Ankua iron ore reserve in the Saranda forest range, a prospecting licence for which was allotted to it five years ago.

However, the company has other iron ore mines in neighbouring Odisha.

Several iron ore mining projects in Jharkhand are running under deemed extensions after original leases expired, some recently and others a couple of years back.

State mines & geology department has been maintaining that it has been conducting hearings for renewal of mining leases in the light of a recent Supreme Court ruling on mines in Odisha and the Justice MB Shah Commission report that has, among other observations, ruled that deemed extensions were illegal.

State mines & geology department secretary Arun said the state was acting as per the M.B. Shah Commission report tabled in Parliament on August 4.

“A new order has come from the Centre suggesting that lease extensions can be given for a maximum of two years only,” he said, but could come up with a convincing reply why the process was delayed inordinately in Jharkhand.

A senior forest official of Saranda region said that mining activity was conducted only in 15 per cent of the total leased area. “The government should first decided whether it wants mining activities in the region or not. Not a single new mining project has come up in the recent past, while old leases are facing the brunt of lease extensions and forest clearances. The buck should stop somewhere and the government should have a clear cut policy,” he said.

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