Odisha rules out extension of deadline for payment of illegal mining penalty

15th December 2017 By: Ajoy K Das - Creamer Media Correspondent

KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – With the Supreme Court set deadline of December 31, to recover dues and penalties for illegal mining in the eastern province of Odisha fast approaching, the government has ruled out any extension of the deadline or recalculation of the penalties recoverable from liable miners.

Government officials in Odisha said that district mining officers have completed collection and collation of data from the ground level relating to all violations of mining rules by lease holders for production of iron-ore, bauxite and manganese and penalty calculations indicated that the amount recoverable from miners would be about $781-million higher than the $468-million estimated soon after the verdict of the apex court.

The officials said that there was no room to take into consideration leaseholders' requests for extension of the deadline or revisions to penalty amounts.

Both the deadline and calculations of penalties were as per strict guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court and the local authorities had no leeway in flexible interpretation of the rules laid down by the courts.

It was pointed out that the interest components had been excluded from the penalty liability payable by each of the leaseholders that had violated mining rules.

Significantly, some of the largest penalties were likely to be imposed on government-owned companies involved in captive mining, like Steel Authority of India and Coal India.

In a verdict in August 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that mining companies in Odisha would be liable to pay back 100% of the price of minerals extracted in violation of the law while rejecting an earlier plea of the Indian government and court appointed Central Empowered Committee on illegal mining that only 30% of value of mineral should be recovered from the companies.

The value to be recovered from the companies pertained to minerals extracted in violation of mining plans and environmental laws by iron-ore and manganese mines since 2001.

The Supreme Court said that the provincial government of Odisha should take follow-up measures to realise the money from miners by December 31 and mining operations could be re-started only after mining lease holders paid the penalty.

Odisha government officials said that mining leaseholders had the option to approach district mining officials only in the case of errors in calculation of the penalty, and not on the basis for the calculation, and that the miners were free to move the courts if they preferred a legal challenge.

However, according to one mining leaseholder, expected to face a penalty, a legal challenge is being ruled out as most miners do not want to get embroiled for years in court and put the resumption of mining operations in abeyance indefinitely.