‘Green Activists May Seek Action Against Mines in Other States’
Environmentalists and policymakers say the order’s likely to have a wider fallout
Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court’s landmark order imposing an estimated ₹ 25,000-crore penalty on iron ore and manganese miners in Odisha continues to rattle the sector, with serious implications for mining operations across the country and clearances obtained in the past.
The 144-page order has given ammunition to green activists to seek court orders against mines in Goa and other states, and strengthened their case in ongoing matters in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), experts said. The industry is worried. “The Supreme Court order, in the case of Odisha, will not only have repercussions for mining across the country, but coal mines operating without environment clearances and industries operating with clearances obtained under the 1994 Environment Impact Assessment notification,” said RK Sharma, Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI).
Declining to.comment on specifics of the order, mines secretary Arun Kumar said: “We are studying the order.”
Environmentalists and policy- makers say the order will have a wider fallout because of the court’s interpretation of the environment ministry’s notifications and circulars over the years,which would place thousands of entities across sectors on the wrong side of the law from at least 2010 onwards. These clarifications relate to conditions under which environment clearances (EC) are required.
The court’s clarification on what constitutes illegal mining has prompted environmental action group Goa Foundation to move court seeking recovery of all ore sold from mines in Goa. It also plans to move court, seeking quashing of environmental clearances granted to a dozen mining companies, including Sesa Goa, Chowgule & Co, EMCO Goa, and the Fomento Group. The Supreme Court’s order in the ‘Common Cause Vs Union of India’ had ruled that abiding by environmental laws is prerequisite to mining, and approvals cannot be retrospective. A violation of the Environmental Protection Act of 1986, or any pollution control laws, would thus count as “illegal mining” under the Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 governing mining.
Last year, the Jharkhand government had issued recovery notices to 15 lessees adding up to ₹ 7,598 crore, which was legally stayed but experts say fresh notices may be issued. The state’s Mines Commissioner Aboobacker Siddique P told ET his government was studying the order.
Claude Alvares, director of the Goa Foundation, told ET he expected other environmentalists to fight for the implementation of this verdict. He said he plans to place before the National Green Tribunal’s Pune bench the court’s clarification on the EIA notification of 1994 (EIA 94) and 2006. The bench is hearing a matter, in which Goa Foundation is a co-petitioner, dealing with validity of clearances granted under EIA 94 to 24 mines in the state.