Complying with the Supreme Court judgment, the Odisha government had raised a demand notice on 150-odd iron and manganese ore lessees, seeking to extract Rs 17,576.17 crore as compensation.
Later, the individual miners had petitioned the Supreme Court, praying for extending the deadline and permission for payment in installments.
“The Supreme Court has not allowed any extension in deadline. Miners have to pay the amount by December 31 to continue operations”, said Prabodh Mohanty, secretary, Eastern Zone Mining Association (EZMA).
The denial by the apex court is bound to have far reaching repercussions on Odisha's iron ore production and external supplies to end use industries, notably steel. The state is the biggest producer, accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total iron ore output in the country.
“Most of the small and mid-scale mining leases would be thrown out of operations as they are in no position to pay the hefty penalties. Also, such miners would not be too keen to continue operations as the leases are due to expire by 2020”, said a miner.
EZMA's Mohanty said it would be premature to fathom the implications of the Supreme Court's direction. “Unless we make an assessment of the situation, it would be difficult to predict the impact. The capacity to pay by individual miners has to be assessed. If some mines go out of operations, it would have a bearing on iron ore production.”
A clutch of miners-both captive and non-captive need to cough up the penalty to keep mining operations afloat. Mining companies in dock include Tata Steel, Essel Mining & Industries Ltd, Indrani Patnaik, Rungta Mines, Serajuddin & Company and even state run entities like Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC).