The Supreme Court Monday asked the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to give its view on whether iron ore mining in Odisha can be capped, keeping sustainable development and intergenerational equity in mind.
The top court perused the affidavit of the Union Ministry of Mines filed in response to its earlier query whether any cap can be put on mining in Odisha keeping in mind the limited iron ore reserves there and said it does not have the view of the Environment Ministry.
“We want the view of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). This ministry is the expert body and it can tell us about the impact of the iron ore mining on the environment and the concept of intergenerational equity,” said the bench comprising Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, Justice J B Pardiwla and Justice Manoj Misra.
The order was passed after a counsel for the petitioner Common Cause, an NGO, said the iron ore is set to be exhausted in 25 years keeping in mind the present pace of mining and hence it needs to be capped.
Earlier, the top court had sought the Centre’s response on whether any cap can be put on mining in Odisha keeping in mind the limited iron ore reserves in the state.
Meanwhile, the bench also directed the Odisha government to file a fresh affidavit in four weeks giving details of recoveries of dues from defaulter mining firms, which were held guilty of violating norms in the state, from the last order passed on August 14.
It also asked the state government to provide the details of properties of mining firms which were attached for recovering the dues.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for Odisha, had said on August 14 this year that the state government recovered a substantial amount in fines from the defaulting mining firms but Rs 2,622 crore was yet to be collected from them.
About Rs 2,215 crore compensation was to be recovered from five lessee mining firms alone, he had said and assured the court that the government would take steps to ensure expeditious recovery of the outstanding dues.
The bench had taken note of the submissions by the NGO that had filed a PIL against illegal mining in 2014 that the defaulting firms or their promoters be not allowed to take part in any future auctioning process involving the state’s valuable mineral resources, and the dues may be recovered by attaching their properties.
The bench had asked the Odisha government to ensure that the recovery, due to the state, may also be done by attaching the properties of the defaulting firms. The state government had said the lease agreements of defaulting firms have already expired and no fresh leases have been granted.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan had said there should be a cap on iron ore mining in Odisha, as was done in Karnataka and Goa, keeping in mind the limited reserves of the mineral.
The Odisha government said the state had an estimated iron ore reserve of 9,220 million tonnes, and it may rise depending on research being conducted from time to time. The bench had then asked the Centre to mull over the issue and file its response within eight weeks on whether a cap can be put on iron ore mining in the state.