By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, December 11, 2017: With chances of Supreme Court reconsidering on Tuesday for the recovery of 100% compensation of the cost of excess production of minerals at market price appearing remote, the downturn has begun showing its impact on those who are dependent on the sector for survival.

The Apex Court is scheduled to hear a writ filed by the miners to consider their plea for rationalisation of penalties, extension of the deadline for paying the cost of excess production. They have also pleaded to the court to permit them to pay the amount in tranches.

Meanwhile, the people living in the mineral rich blocks in Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Keonjhar and Jajpur, who bore the brunt of closure of the mining leases a couple of years ago again fear that they are going to hit by the worst-ever recession if mines are closed following the Supreme Court’s order on August 2 last.

“The entire economy in the mineral belt depends on mining activities. Tens of thousands of people lost their livelihood when mining activities stopped post Shah Commission’s report on illegal mining. Even now 50% of mining activities has not resumed. Several sponge iron, pellet plants and steel plants got closed. Now the Supreme Court order to erring mining entities to pay 110% compensation has come as a rude shock. The New Year will once again bring sorrows to the people living in this region, who totally depend on mining activities”, says Keonjhar Mines and Forest Workers Union General Secretary Maheswar Rout.

Sukinda Panchyat Samity Chairperson, Mrs Padmabati Jena cautioned that if the mines are closed, many would be forced to commit suicide. “We will have to kill ourselves if mining stops in Sukinda region. We had given our land to mining and steel companies and people here are totally dependent on the mining and plants. I appeal the state and central governments to intervene in the matter so that the mines and plants do not close leading to economic disaster in this region.”

Odisha government had issued two demand notices to about 150-odd errant miners. The first notice, seeking recovery of Rs 17,576.17 crore, was slapped on mining companies for producing ore beyond environment clearance (EC) limits. Similarly, in the second demand notice, the government sought to extract Rs 2,900 crore for violations of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; Air & Water Acts and overproduction in violation of the limits set in the mining plan prescribed by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) and consent to operate granted by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB).

Meanwhile, the central empowered committee (CEC), a panel appointed by the Supreme Court (SC), has asked the Odisha government to rework the penalties for miners in a case of overproduction of iron ore and manganese ore.

Officials said they have got the letter from the CEC to reconcile penalty figures for some miners who had petitioned the apex court for reconsideration. “The figures have to be adjusted against the unsold inventory of some miners”, said a state government official.

The mine owners are pleading for rationalisation of the penalty worked out under EC. “We are caught between devil and deep sea. In working out a revised figure for EC violation, we had requested for considering some anomalies like piled up, unsold ore at the mine heads. If this is factored in, the compensation amount could be pruned and the mine owners could pay compensation in tranches,” said Prabodh Mohanty, general secretary, EZMA.