Clear stand on mining near sanctuary: Shah panel to Odisha



Bhubaneswar: Justice M B Shah Commission, probing illegal mining activities in Odisha, on Monday asked the state government and Union Ministry of Environment and Forest to clear their stands on issues relating to mineral exploration within 10 km radius of wildlife sanctuaries.

The Commission asked both the governments to submit affidavits in this regard before the commission on April 4. Justice Shah gave this ruling while hearing certain mine lessees who were accused of illegally undertaking mining operation within 10 km radius of wildlife sanctuaries.

The issue relating to mining near sanctuaries became controversial after several mine lessees claimed there was no prohibitory order on mining operation within 10 km radius from the wildlife sanctuaries and that none of them were operating mines near sanctuary areas since an order issued in 2005.

Official sources, however, said there were nine iron ore and manganese mines and 21 mineral reserves within 10 km radius of wildlife sanctuaries.

"The state government has stopped mining operation of all the mines working in close vicinity of Similipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district," a senior official of steel and mines department said.

Meanwhile, Odisha government formed five sub-committees (two for Keonjhar and three for Sundergarh districts) under the seven-member committee to undertake field verification on mines, Director of Mines Deepak Mohanty said.

Each sub-committee, to be headed by a scientist of Odisha Remote Sensing Application Centre (ORSAC), will comprise two officials each from steel and mines department, revenue and disaster management department and forest and environment department.

Modalities of field verification would be decided by scientists to be chosen by the commission, with the government proposing the panel to set up a state-level committee for overall monitoring of verification work at the field level, Mohanty said.

PTI