Generic image for Mining. Photo: Reuters
The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday directed the Odisha government to produce audited accounts of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) set up for the welfare or tribals affected by illegal mining in several districts.
The court noted Rs 237 crore had been deposited in the court for the development of the affected districts. But, there was no report on how the SPV was using the fund. More money was coming into the fund. Therefore, the SPV has been asked to report its use in the districts of Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj, where rapacious mining has damaged the environment.
The court reiterated that “there have been very serious lapses that have enabled large-scale mining activities to be carried out without forest clearance or environment clearance and eventually the persons responsible for this will need to be booked. Violation of the laws and policy needs to be prevented in other parts of the country. The rule of law needs to be established. What is of immediate concern is to learn lessons from the past so that rapacious mining operations are not repeated in any other part of the country.”
The court said it was of the view that it would be appropriate if an expert committee was set up under a retired judge to identify the damage and suggest steps to be taken across the country.
The court also directed the central government to take a fresh look at the National Mineral Policy, 2008, which is almost a decade old, particularly with regard to conservation and mineral development. The exercise should be completed by December 31.
A committee headed by a retired judge of the SC had given a final report that painted a grim picture of the devastation caused by illegal mining by several top companies. Hundreds of miners were carrying on their operations without licences or with expired licences.