Leases not renewed but deemed so, mining goes on
As in Goa, where the deemed extension of mining leases was at the heart of a mining scam, in Orissa too such deemed extension gave leaseholders an open season while also putting them at the mercy of government officials.
The deemed renewal of a lease allows the holder to continue extracting ore even after the expiry of the lease, while it waits for renewal. In September this year, the M B Shah Commission pointed out how over 60 mines in Goa were on a "deemed extension" and led to illegal mining.
In Orissa, where the steel and mines department has sent showcause notices to holders of 103 leases because of excess mining of iron ore and manganese to the tune of Rs 68,000 crore between 2000 and 2010, 215 mines are at present working on a "deemed renewal" basis. All the 103 leases involved in the showcause notice are deemed renewed, a senior official of the steel and mines department said.
Deemed renewal is granted under rule 24A(6) of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960. Under the rule, the miner's application for renewal of his lease should be pending with the government before expiry. It is also necessary for miners to have all statutory clearances under the Forest Conservation Act, the Environment Protection Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, the Water Act and the Air Pollution Act when seeking and being granted a deemed extension.
A central empowered committee of the Supreme Court, which probed violations of several provisions of FC Act during its investigation into the Orissa mining scam in 2010, found that 215 mines had not got their leases renewed for 10 to 20 years and continued on a deemed renewal basis.
"Deemed renewal was an exigency provision in the MC Rules. The government should have either accepted or rejected the mining lease renewal applications within a reasonable period of six months to one year," said the top executive of a mining company, unwilling to be named. "But instead they were kept pending, which helped government officials collude with some of the miners to allow them to mine beyond their limits."