several reports of the company having violated the Forest Conservation Act,1980.
Under an approved mining plan, Indrani Patnaik’s company was allowed to raise 2.10 lakh tonnes per annum but in three years it extracted 28 lakh tonnes, paying royalty and other taxes for every tonne. Her husband D R Patnaik, who holds the power of attorney for the mines, told The Indian Express: “It’s true we might have committed some irregularities, but there was no illegal mining. If we had committed any illegalities, how did the officials accept the royalty amount we paid? Nobody raised a voice then.”
Steel and mines department officials privately admit that the state was aware of excess production since 2003 as mining returns are filed with the IBM every month. “It was not as if we discovered just now. The first reports of over-mining came in 2003,” said an official.
Biswajit Mohanty of Transparency International India, who was one of the petitioners in the Orissa High Court demanding a CBI probe into the mining scam, agreed that the state government’s order may have too many flaws. “They have calculated the penalty taking the average price of iron ore for that period. But the price of iron ore changes every quarter and so due care should have been taken to arrive at the correct figure. The moment the companies move the Mining Tribunal, the orders would be stayed,” he said.
Mohanty alleged mines ministry officials were in collusion with the errant miners as the ministry had changed the MC rules. “How can rules be changed to negate the relevant Act? In this case the change in rules negated section 21(5) of the MMDR Act,” he said.
Officials & miners
If an area to be mined comes under a forest area, the state forest department recommends a forest diversion to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the Forest Conservation Act,1980. The MoEF’s forest and advisory committee can then okay the forest diversion, following which companies go ahead with mining. Before diversion, the companies have to take up compensatory afforestation.
Following RTI applications by Biswajit Mohanty to the forest and environment department, details came out about vehicles being provided by miners to forest officials. The replies showed that successive officials in the state forest and environment department and the office of the principal chief conservator of forests rode Scorpios, Boleros, Tata Spacio and air-conditioned Ambassador cars provided by the mining companies. These were supposedly