Illegal Mining to Attract 100% Penalty, Rules SC
SC gives definitive ruling in case on illegal iron, manganese mining in Odisha
Samanwaya Rautray & Meera Mohanty
New Delhi|Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said illegal mining — including absence of mandatory forest or environment clearances and air-water pollution norm violations — would incur 100% penalty on the mineral. Though the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Development Act, 1957, provides for this, the apex court’s ruling in a case involving illegal iron and manganese mining in Odisha sheds further clarity on the issue. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta refused to countenance a lesser compensatory fine for offenders in Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj districts. “There can be no compromise on the quantum of compensation — it should be 100%. The defaulting lessee must bear the consequences of the illegality and not be benefited by pocketing 70% (the central empowered committee or CEC had suggested only 30% recovery) of the illegally mined ore.”
For now, though, the court has not ordered a CBI probe into illegal mining in Odisha or limit mining, as it had done in Goa and Karnataka.
“This is epochal,” said advocate Anand Varma. “The court has established a clear, unambiguous connection between mining environmental laws. Anyone violating any aspect of environmental and forest laws would be liable to compensate for illegal mining under Section 21(5) of the MMDR Act. Miners would not be able to segregate mining and environmental compliance as in the past.”
Sticking to the Act, the bench said, “Section 21(5) of the MMDR Act is applicable when any person raises, without any lawful authority, any mineral from any land. The state government is entitled to recover the mineral raised or, where the mineral has already been disposed of, the price thereof, as compensation.”
The apex court has not yet ordered a CBI probe into illegal mining in Odisha or put a cap on mining
HUGE DIFFERENCE IN PENALTY
The Odisha government, in November 2010, had sent notices to Tata Steel, SAIL and all private miners totalling .₹ 59,000-61,000 crore. The CEC had estimated excesses adding up to .₹ 17,576.16 crore at a weighted average price of minerals, as per the Indian Bureau of Mines. It had recommended a fine of 30%, which worked out to less than .₹ 7,000 crore, and did not cover mining sans forest clearance. The SC’s recommendations will put the fine at a ballpark of .₹ 25,000 crore for Odisha’s defaulting miners, to be paid from 2000-01 and deposited by December 31 this year.