By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, February 13, 2019: Odisha has not been able to auction mines due to inordinate delay in submission of a report by the Supreme Court appointed panel to look into violations of mining laws, officials said.

This has resulted in uncertainty in auctioning of over 320 million tonne of mineral, they added.

Against 15 auctions planned in 2018-2019, the state has been able to conduct only five. The views of the panel will have a bearing on the participation and disqualification of bidders in the auction. That is why the state government is waiting for the panel report leading to delays.

The Supreme Court had set up an expert panel, comprising former Justice G S Singhvi and Justice Anil R Dave, to look into allegations of violation of Rule 37 of Mineral Concession Rule, 1960, and Section 6 of MMDR Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 in the state following a hearing on November 22, 2017 in the case related to the Odisha mining scam.

The Odisha mining scam, which the Shah Commission had estimated to be close to Rs 60,000 crore, has gone through a long-winded judicial route since it was brought to light in late 2009.

The Common Cause – a NGO had gone to the Supreme Court seeking action against the miners accused of illegal mining and CBI probe into the scam. Following this, the apex court had directed the state government to collect compensation of Rs 17500 crore from the errant miners towards violation of environment and forest rules.

In a recent hearing on the matter on January 16, 2019, the SC has directed the Registry of the Court to find out and apprise the top Court in four weeks of January 16, 2019 judgement as to when the Committee report is expected to come out.

Subsequent suspension of operation at many mines and now delay mining auction is expected to hit state government’s ambitious plan to create 10 lakh new jobs in the mining sector by 2025.

The lessees, which have been accused of violation under these acts and rules included some of the large mines in the state Sarda Mines Pvt. Ltd., Rungta Mines Limited, Rungta Sons Pvt. Ltd., Bonai Industries Company Ltd., Essel Mining and Industries Ltd., amongst others.

After forming the expert panel in November, 2017, the Supreme Court had asked it to file its report within 12-weeks period from the date of its first hearing. However, it is yet to submit the report.

As mandated by amended MMDR Act, 2015, a total of 288 mineral blocks are lapsing by March 31, 2020, out of which 45 are in Odisha. The delay in filing of report by the SC appointed panel might create hurdles in re-auctioning of the lapsed mining leases, said an official of a mining company.

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