New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to make it compulsory for mine leaseholders to re-grass the area after completing mining operations, and recommended this as a stringent condition part of the environmental clearance (EC) for mining.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant, noted that mining activity results in complete elimination of the grass. The bench asked the Centre to come up with a process, which leads to compliance of this re-grassing exercise by the mine leaseholders. The direction came on the hearing of a plea filed by NGO Common Cause challenging the large-scale illegal mining across the country.
The court observed that it is essential to restore the mining area after operations have ceased and the next step should be to grow grass and other vegetation in this area, which is beneficial for the animals too. In 2017, the apex court, through a judgement in the Odisha mining case, had imposed a fine of Rs 19,174.83 crores on mining leaseholders for environmental and forest clearance violations.
Advocate A.D.N. Rao, the amicus curiae on the matter, said the ministry concerned should link re-grassing to the mine closure plan, as usually after mining activity, the leaseholders vacate the area without paying heeding to the re-development of the area.
The bench said: “The Union of India should impose this condition in the environmental clearance for the mining lease.” It also observed after the mining activity is over the land should be restored for the growth of fodder, flora, fauna etc, which is necessary for the survival of the herbivores.
“Similar condition should be imposed for granting the environmental clearance,” the court added.
The apex court also sought action report from the Centre within three weeks, and also emphasised that this condition should not be imposed in derogation of any condition which is already in force. The court also said this condition can be imposed under the mine closure plan.