SC-appointed CEC urges Odisha govt to reconcile penalty figure for miners

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

The apex court in a judgment dated August 2 this year had directed the state government to issue demand notices to all miners for recovering the cost of excess production. The court verdict was in a case filed by the NGO Common Cause. The court held that the compensation amount should be the rationalised figure as calculated by CEC. 

In its order, the SC had asked to recover 100 per cent compensation as opposed to the 30 per cent recommended by CEC.

Accordingly, the state government had issued two demand notices to some 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. 

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). The latest notice has been slapped on 23 miners violating the Forest (Conservation) Act and 151 others for other statutory non-compliances.

“We have got the letter from the CEC. They have asked us 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.

At a recent meeting of the CEC involving the state government and miners, the mine owners had pleaded for rationalisation of the penalty worked out under EC. “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.”, said a leading mine owner.

Additionally, the miners have prayed to the apex court to consider their plea for 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.

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