Mining firm of Somanna's sons encroached on 37.30 acres

The firm has been accused of “encroaching and illegally mining” 37.30 acres in the vicinity of the mining area licenced to it in Gubbi taluk of Tumkur district. Although the matter first surfaced in August, 2010, it was allegedly covered up by the government officials and was almost hushed up. Dr U V Singh, the head of the Lokayukta team investigating illegal mining, however, has taken up the case afresh, giving a new twist to it.

The firm, co-owned by Somanna’s sons Arun Somanna and Navin Somanna, conducts mining and exports iron ore, manganese, dolomite, limestone, and clay. Puttaraju, former Deputy Mayor of Bangalore, was once one of the partners in the firm which had been given the contract (No 2600) to mine 320 acres at Kondli and Moodalapalya villages in Gubbi taluk.

In 2010, a joint task force of the Departments of Forests, Revenue, Mines and Geology was asked to look into illegal mining in Tumkur district. As per the State Government’s directive, the task force inspected the mining area licenced to Matha Minerals.

The officials found that the firm had encroached 37.30 acres apart from the area given to it. Also, it was accumulating mining effluents. Besides, corner stones and signs in the middle of the border lines were found missing.

After inspection, the task force submitted a report to the Department of Commerce and Industries. The report charged the firm of violating Section 27 (1) (G) of the Mining Concession Rules, 1960 and Sections 4 (1) and 21 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.  

The submission of the report should have been followed up by the filing of a criminal case against the firm and cancellation of its mining license. Under Sections 4 (1) and 21 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, illegal mining and tampering the border mining signs are punishable with two years' imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000.

The Government, however, chose not to take action. On March 4, 2011, a meeting chaired by the Secretary, Department of Commerce and Industries, decided to let the firm go scot free by levying a paltry fine of Rs 16.35 lakh.

On March 26, two notices about the fine were sent to the firm’s Bangalore office and a month was given for the payment. The company, however, did not respond even two months later.

Suresh Babu, Deputy Director of Mines and Geology, Tumkur district, confirmed to Deccan Herald that Matha Minerals had been found guilty of illegally mining 37.30 acres. The notices on payment of the fine were sent to Arun Somanna and Puttaraju. “But they have ignored them,” Babu said.

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