Delays in green clearance to mines in Jharkhand, Orissa may stoke Naxalism, Beni tells Jayanthi

Beni Prasad Verma

Steel minister Beni Prasad Verma has cautioned environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan against holding up clearances for SAIL's iron ore mines in Orissa and Jharkhand, saying this would force the state-owned steel giant to scale down operations and could stoke Naxal activity in the tribal region.

Verma's November 30 missive to Natarajan comes close on the heels of SAIL's top brass sounding the alarm on the delays in environmental clearance for the Gua mine in Jharkhand and Bolani mine in Orissa. This could trigger raw material scarcity for its Bokaro plant in Jharkhand and integrated steel plant in Burnpur in West Bengal, they had said.

Natarajan, when contacted, said her office had not received any such letter from Verma. But she said the issues raised are being "addressed". The clearance for Bolani was given "several days ago" while there are "issues related to environmental violations" in Gua, she told The Indian Express.

In his letter, Verma said operations in Gua have been held up since June 2011 due to non-availability of forest clearance. Although the stage-I forest clearance was granted on August 14 this year, mining could not be resumed as SAIL is still awaiting environmental clearance.

Verma said the closure of Gua mines has affected 40,000 people around these areas, adding that ore mines of SAIL in Orissa and Jharkhand are located in areas where tribal populations are the main beneficiaries. "Discontinuation of mining activity may lead to law and order problems and might aggravate the Naxal activities which would be detrimental to all the development activities of the area (sic)," he said in his letter.

Mining in SAIL's Bolani mines has been suspended since November 11 for want of permission.

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