Justice Shah seeks explanation from OMC for keeping mines idle

Pulling up Odisha government for not regular verifying forest and environment clearance of mining lessees, the Justice M B Shah Commission on Saturday sought an explanation from state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation for keeping a number of mines idle.

“What is the point in giving more mines to the state PSU if it fails to operate and explore them?” Justice Shah asked the OMC during its fourth hearing here.

Though OMC held the lease of over 21 iron and manganese mines, only five were operational. The commission, investigating illegal mining in Odisha and other states, also said that OMC had violated Rule 37 of the Mineral Concession (rpt) Concession Rules.

The state PSU was asked to appear before the commission at its headquarters in Ahmedabad to explain its stand on the Rule-37.

Justice Shah also pulled up the OMC for engaging contractors for certain work in operating mines.

OMC chairman-cum-managing director Saswat Mishra told the commission that some jobs were outsourced due to breakage of a conveyor belt and some other machinery.

On keeping mines idle, Mishra said “We could not prospect certain mines due to lack of forest clearance.

“As the forest ministry restricted the number of borewell digging, the OMC could not access the mineral deposited in its area,” he said.

“We requested the commission to direct the Centre to allow required number of borewell diggings to ascertain the volume of ore in a particular area,” he said.

Defending OMC keeping certain mines idle, Mishra said the majority of the idle mines had a small amount of ore.

“We provided watch and ward staff in those mines. If OMC surrendered these small patches, there will be loot of ore,” he said citing instance of the central PSU Mahanadi Coalfield not utilising about 50 per cent of the area allocated to it.

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