Govt cancels Chitradurga mining lease

Curiously after sitting on all incriminating documents for more than a year without any visible reasons, the Centre this week finally cancelled the lease in its present form.
The story began in the UPA I regime when the company approached the ministry in December 2006 seeking permission to mine in Hirekandavad and Tanigehalli villages in Holalkere taluk in Chitradurga. The lease area of the mine was 80.94 ha and entirely forest land.

The proposed production capacity for iron and manganese was six lakhs tonnes per annum and 10,000 TPA respectively.An expert group in the ministry considered the proposal in 2007 and asked the company to submits its environment impact assessment report to the state pollution control board and hold public hearings.

The final EIA report with comments from the public hearing had to be submitted to the Central ministry for final approval. Accordingly, a public hearing was held in January of 2008 and the report was submitted in March of 2008.

But things turned murkier when a forgery case related to forestry by the firm was brought to the ministry’s notice in the same month. It was found that the company produced forged letters (dated August 27, 2007 and February 14, 2008) which claimed to grant them permission to lift the old waste dump from the Janthakal Mine.

The forest conservation division examined the case and found that the letter submitted by the company was fake. The ministry subsequently wrote to the Secretary (Forest), Karnataka, to take immediate criminal action against the mine owner and others involved.

The Lokayukta, Karnataka, also heard the matter separately. It asked the Karnataka principal chief conservator of forests if the letters were genuine. The ministry clarified that they were fake as no such communication had been addressed to Janthakal Enterprises.
In October, 2008, the ministry sought clarification from the company on the status of forest clearance and on issues raised during public hearings. But there was no response from the company, compelling the government to revoke the licence.

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