KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - The Indian government-appointed commission chaired by Justice M B Shah, to probe illegal mining across the country, has submitted its third and final report.
The report was submitted a day before the commission’s term ended.
The report would be tabled before Parliament and, though its contents have not been disclosed, sources said that apart from recommending a ban on iron-ore and manganese exports, the commission had also elaborated on financial transactions and losses to the national exchequer from illegal mining in several parts of India between 2006 and 2011.
The commission delved into bank records and transactions of traders, exporters and miners and was able to detect several financial irregularities originating from transgressions of mining laws, the sources said.
The investigations were carried out in Goa, Karnataka, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Based on the commission’s two interim reports, together with a report from the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which was appointed by the Supreme Court, the Indian government had imposed a blanket ban on iron-ore mining and shipment from the provinces of Karnataka and Goa.
According to reports of government auditors and the CEC, the losses from illegal mining in Goa had been estimated at $5.6-billion between 2006 and 2011, while in Karnataka losses were estimated at $2.6-billion during the same period.
The commission commenced its work in January 2011, and had the mandate to complete and file its report by July 16, 2012. However, the government had to extend the term by a year, considering the magnitude of the mandate, and probe financial trails.
Meanwhile, the decision to allow the term of the commission to expire has drawn flak from provincial governments such as Chhattisgarh, which had demanded an extension of its tenure, alleging political motives in not granting the commission an extension.
Certain sections of the political opposition were even contemplating moving the Supreme Court against the expiry of the commission’s term.
A delegation from the Chhattisgarh government said in a press release that “we have been pressing for an extension of the commission and not granting an extension was a political move by the Indian government to cover up theft of public funds”.
The delegation, which met the Mines Secretary, was informed that “issues of forest and agricultural degradation were not within the purview of the Mines Ministry” and, hence, the Commission was not given an extension.
However, the terms of reference of the commission explicitly mention that the purpose is to inquire into illegal acts of mining in terms of destruction of forest wealth, damage to the environment, and prejudice to the livelihood and rights of tribals and forest dwellers.