Shah Commission probes ‘illegal’ mining in Orissa

Keonjhar: The Centre-appointed Shah Commission, led by former Supreme Court judge Justice M B Shah, on Saturday visited at least five major mines in Orissa's mineral rich Keonjhar district.

Justice Shah, accompanied by commission members and state government officials, began the third-day probe by visiting Sunderlal Sarda and Mohanlal Sarda mines.

"We found storage of 128 million tonne of iron ore in the mines spread over 947 hectare of land," said one of the members of the commission adding that the company was entitled to generate only 15 million tonne of iron ore per annum.

Justice Shah expressed displeasure over the lack of enforcement of mining rules by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM).

IBM was supposed to control and regulate the amount of production in specific mines, they said adding that Justice Shah also sought to know about the mines company's MoU in regards to transaction of iron ore with Jindal.

The commission members also took note of "certain irregularities" at the Joda East iron ore mines of Tata Group.

"Though the lease period over 771 hectare mines of Tata had expired since 2005, the commission sought to know from the Mines department officials as to how the company was allowed to operate the mines on deemed manner," a state government official accompanying the commission team said.

The commission also came to know about operation of Kashia Iron ore and Dolomite mines of Essel company "without having" a permanent forest clearance. The mine was being operated basing on a temporary forest clearance, they said adding that while the company was using e-permit, it did not have e-pass facility for transportation of minerals.

The Commission team also found storage of 147 million tonne of mineral by mining operation over only 197 hectare land.

The team also visited mines owned by Mesco and K M Ram. However, commission's proposed visit to Koira mining circle in Sundergarh district was cancelled due to lack of adequate time, sources said.

Protesting cancellation of the commission's visit to Koira mining circle, the CITU staged dharna on the National Highway-215.

"We want the commission should also see large scale illegal mining activities in Koira area," said CITU leader Bishnu Mohanty adding that the commission should also take note of the situation created due to suspension of a large number of mines in the area.

The livelihood of lakhs of tribals was affected due to closure of mines in both Sundergarh and Keonjhar districts.

Before concluding its visit, the commission was scheduled to meet the NGOs, public, stake holders and others at the collectorate in Keonjhar town from 9 am to 11 am on Sunday.

The members of the Shah commission included U V Singh, chief conservator of forest, Karnataka, G T Pancya, deputy commissioner, industries and mines department, Gujarat, C M Trivedi, deputy collector, Gujarat and Janardan Prasad, senior geologist, GSI, Gujarat.