Probe panel finds Coal India subsidiary guilty of illegal mining in Assam

S
stenews
Fri, Jan 14, 2022 11:10 PM

Probe panel finds Coal India subsidiary guilty of illegal mining in Assam
The Hindu
January 14, 2022

North Eastern Coalfields extracted coal worth ₹4,872 crore without
obtaining mining rights, the Justice B.P. Katakey panel report said.

A subsidiary of Coal India Limited extracted coal worth ₹4,872.13 crore in
eastern Assam without obtaining mining rights, the report of a probe panel
constituted by the State government has revealed.

The entire amount should be recovered from the North Eastern Coalfields
(NEC), the one-man commission of Justice Brojendra Prasad Katakey
recommended to the Assam government. The recovery amount was calculated on
the basis of NEC’s earnings from the “illegal mines” between 2003 and 2021,
when it ceased operations.

The panel was set up after the State government had in July 2020 ordered an
inquiry into allegations of illegal mining in Tinsukia district’s Digboi
Forest Division, which falls within the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.

The two-volume report of the panel, running into more than 500 pages, was
prepared in April 2021 but tabled in the Assam Assembly in December that
year.

The commission found that NEC extracted coal despite the non-renewal of
several mining leases in the Digboi Forest Division that expired in 2003.
The Assam government had in 2019 extended the period of the lease for 10
years from 2003 and a deed to this effect was executed in January 2021.

But the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, framed under Mines and Minerals
(Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, did not allow such retrospective
renewal of lease, the report noted. This implied that the NEC did not have
any lease in respect of the mines in the forest division “from 2003 to the
present”, it said.

The company’s mining activity in these areas was thus illegal, the report
said.

The commission noted that the Assam Forest Department had in 2020 imposed a
penalty of ₹43.2 crore on the NEC for illegally mining 98.59 hectares of
forest land. But this action came after years of indifference by the local
authorities, it said.

The Forest Department, aware that NEC had flouted the rules, had allowed
the 98.59 hectares to be diverted for the Tikok Open Cast Project.

In August 2012, the chief general manager of NEC had submitted a proposal
for the conversion of this patch for non-forest use as the company had
already broken (exploited) 57.2 hectares of this land by then.

This constituted a violation under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the
panel noted. But the Assam government recommended approval of this
proposal, which the Environment Ministry consented to.

“The violation of the provisions of the 1980 Act is writ large on the said
stage-I clearance granted by the government of India,” the report said.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/probe-panel-finds-coal-india-subsidiary-guilty-of-illegal-mining-in-assam/article38272205.ece

Probe panel finds Coal India subsidiary guilty of illegal mining in Assam The Hindu January 14, 2022 North Eastern Coalfields extracted coal worth ₹4,872 crore without obtaining mining rights, the Justice B.P. Katakey panel report said. A subsidiary of Coal India Limited extracted coal worth ₹4,872.13 crore in eastern Assam without obtaining mining rights, the report of a probe panel constituted by the State government has revealed. The entire amount should be recovered from the North Eastern Coalfields (NEC), the one-man commission of Justice Brojendra Prasad Katakey recommended to the Assam government. The recovery amount was calculated on the basis of NEC’s earnings from the “illegal mines” between 2003 and 2021, when it ceased operations. The panel was set up after the State government had in July 2020 ordered an inquiry into allegations of illegal mining in Tinsukia district’s Digboi Forest Division, which falls within the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. The two-volume report of the panel, running into more than 500 pages, was prepared in April 2021 but tabled in the Assam Assembly in December that year. The commission found that NEC extracted coal despite the non-renewal of several mining leases in the Digboi Forest Division that expired in 2003. The Assam government had in 2019 extended the period of the lease for 10 years from 2003 and a deed to this effect was executed in January 2021. But the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, framed under Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, did not allow such retrospective renewal of lease, the report noted. This implied that the NEC did not have any lease in respect of the mines in the forest division “from 2003 to the present”, it said. The company’s mining activity in these areas was thus illegal, the report said. The commission noted that the Assam Forest Department had in 2020 imposed a penalty of ₹43.2 crore on the NEC for illegally mining 98.59 hectares of forest land. But this action came after years of indifference by the local authorities, it said. The Forest Department, aware that NEC had flouted the rules, had allowed the 98.59 hectares to be diverted for the Tikok Open Cast Project. In August 2012, the chief general manager of NEC had submitted a proposal for the conversion of this patch for non-forest use as the company had already broken (exploited) 57.2 hectares of this land by then. This constituted a violation under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the panel noted. But the Assam government recommended approval of this proposal, which the Environment Ministry consented to. “The violation of the provisions of the 1980 Act is writ large on the said stage-I clearance granted by the government of India,” the report said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/probe-panel-finds-coal-india-subsidiary-guilty-of-illegal-mining-in-assam/article38272205.ece