Errant mining firm rewarded: CEC

Errant mining firm rewarded: CEC

Land mine:

In yet another expose of the State Government’s kindness to firms indulging in illegal mining, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme has said that the State Forest department had allowed a firm guilty of encroaching on forest, forming an illegal road and causing revenue loss of Rs 14 crore to the State to go scot free.

Worse, the Forest Department had recommended that the erring firm be allocated an additional 70.41 hectares of forest land, the CEC has observed in its report that it has submitted to the Supreme Court.

In its exclusive report submitted to the apext court on illegal mining by Lakshminarayana Mining Company in Sandur range of Bellary, the CEC has observed that the illegal mining and encroachment by the company have been compounded and a case registered for violating the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, was withdrawn.

Violation of the Forest Act was compounded, omitting 10 hectares of area encroached for approach road and five hectares of area used as dump yard.

The company, operating since 1963, has a mining lease over 175.63 hectares.

The Lokayukta report dated December 18, 2008 indicted the firm for illegal mining and encroaching upon 41.93 hectares of forest area.

The Forest Department registered a case of the offence in violation of the Forest Act in the JMFC court.

The company moved the High Court which ordered a joint survey in the presence of officers of the Forest Department, the Indian Bureau of Mines and the Survey of India. The survey confirmed the encroachment in 35 hectares outside the sanctioned area.

On the direction of the High Court, the Range Forest Officer (RFO) had the firm remove the waste from the  encroached area, but the CEC said the RFO had made no attempt to ascertain whether the waste was iron ore. 

During their visit, the CEC members were shocked to find the mining pit, where ore was extracted illegally, neatly filled in and planted over.

RFO’s investigation report

According to the RFO’s investigation report, the road (passing through the forest area) was widened by 2.5 metre over and above the existing 7.5-metre wide for a distance of 4.325 km; and 2.80 hectares of the illegally mined area was filled in.

The State government was of the view that the company deliberately attempted to destroy the evidence of alleged illegal mining in the already surrendered forest area.

The RFO, Sandur range, estimated the damage caused to environment and forest at Rs 1.6 crore and the value of iron ore seized at the surrendered mine site at Rs 14 crore, excluding the value of the ore already extracted and transported from the area.

The committee observed that the company was shown undue favour by compounding illegal mining and encroachment, and also by withdrawing the forest offence case.

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