Govt could invoke amended Act to renew mining lease of dubious firm

Sri Kumaraswamy Mineral Exports accused of mining reserve forest in Ballari

The Department of Mines and Geology seems to be taking cover behind the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, to renew the lease of the controversial Sri Kumaraswamy Mineral Exports Pvt Ltd (SKME).

The SKME, which was given mining lease in Yeshwantnagar, Ballari district, is accused of extracting minerals in a reserve forest. While the original sketch of the lease is missing in the entire proceeding files, the department is going ahead with ‘deemed extension’ by invoking section 8A of the Act.

In 2013, the Lokayukta had passed an order, recommending departmental enquiry against 13 former directors who served in the Mines and Geology Department between November 1986 and May 2010 for facilitating illegal mining by the SKME. The Lokayukta also ordered the government to initiate criminal proceedings against the company and recover Rs 86 crore in royalties.

The SKME challenged the order on the grounds that the Lokayukta had no jurisdiction to enquire into the matter. The Department of Industries and Commerce did not submit any documents to the government advocate despite repeated reminders from the advocate general’s office. The high court had to quash the Lokayukta order that recommended criminal proceedings against the company.

Meanwhile, the government wrote to the Ministry of Mines, seeking permission to renew the SKME’s lease. In the letter, it acknowledged not having the map (sketch) pertaining to company.

Mohammed Tanveer, who had filed the complaint to the Lokayukta and the Department of Mines and Geology, said the entire government machinery was backing the SKME though he had produced all the relevant documents. “The issue came to my notice when I applied for mining lease in an area where no mining activity was taking place. My application was rejected on the grounds that the area was overlapping with the SKME’s.

I was surprised since the SKME was mining a different area. After collecting the documents, I found that not only was the area applied and approved different, but the area mined by the SKME was also different. Two months ago, I received a reply under the RTI that the department is considering declaring the SKME’s lease deemed extended. I have again filed my objections,” he said.

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