Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, July 29:
Odisha government has admitted to violation of law in extraction and transaction of iron ore from Thakurani-B mines in Keonjhar district and appeared to wash its hands of the matter by suggesting it had taken appropriate steps as and when
the situation demanded.
Sarada Mines and Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) are both responsible for the violations, said the state government in a written reply to Leader of the Opposition Narasingha Mishra on Monday. Mishra had on Saturday sought a reply on the issue through a special mention notice.
The government said it had initiated legal action and has served a notice to Sarada Mines to pay a penalty of Rs 497 crore for the violation.
The government, in its reply, said that Thakurani-B iron ore mines was leased out to Sarada Mines Company for a period of 20 years in the year 2001.
The fact that Sarada Mines Company has not transferred the mines to JSPL is true, but JSPL is engaged in extraction of iron ore from the mines and is buying it at production cost which is in violation of rule 37 of the MMDR Act, said the reply.
The government became aware of the violation during the investigations conducted by a departmental committee on the basis of which a show cause notice had been served to the lease holder company, Sarada Mines, against which the compnay had gone for an appeal. As a consequence of a revised order by the Ministry of Mines in November last year, the show cause notice was quashed. The government has filed a case in the High Court challenging the order, the reply said.
The state government has admitted in the reply that JSPL was buying the entire ore produced from the mines at one tenth of the market price. The government had served a penalty notice of Rs 497 crore on Sarada Mines for such transactions during the period 2008-09 to 2012-13. The company has challenged the penalty notice in the High Court and the matter is pending.
The government has stated that Sarada Mines was ordered on April 1 this year to stop operations in Thakurani –B mines as the environment clearance for the mines had ended on March 31.
The government has not even permitted JSPL to lift the extracted iron ore lying at the mines. JSPL has filed a case in the High Court in this connection which is being adjudicated by the court said the reply. It contended that the allegation that the government was sitting silent over the matter of illegal transaction in the Thakurani –B mines was baseless.