‘Green Ac­tivists May Seek Ac­tion Against Mines in Other States’

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and pol­i­cy­mak­ers say the order’s likely to have a wider fall­out

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit - Meera.Mo­hanty @times­grooup.com

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.

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