On Tuesday Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said that with the withdrawal of suspension of environment clearances by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the stage has been set for resumption of mining, which had remained suspended for two and half years. Addressing a press conference to announce the revocation of the suspension of environment clearances, the Chief Minister said that the last hurdle in resumption of mining has been cleared by the central government following concerted efforts by the state authorities. “It is for the mine owners to take a call on when to resume mining activities”, he said.
Parsekar said that mining could start as early as within a month adding that a final call on the issue has to be taken by the mine owners. “The government has now ‘opened’ the road for resumption of mining in the state,” he said adding that around 25 per cent of the state affected due to closure of mining would benefit from the government decision. He said that the state had proportionately put a capping on mine owners as per the Supreme Court directions to limit extraction to 20 million metric tonnes and communicated the same to the Union government so as to pave the way for withdrawal of suspension of ECs. The apex court would take a final call on capping in April after receipt of expert panel report, he added.
The Chief Minister said that the decision to withdraw suspension was personally communicated to him by Union MoEF Minister Prakash Javadekar. He said that he was informed that ECs of 72 mines have been revoked while those of 17 others, which fall in the one-kilometre buffer zone have been kept in abeyance. The state had renewed leases of 89 mines recently. He however, said that he had not got the order of revocation but went on to add that he has been told that the concerned officials have been directed to issue the orders. He also said that the government would pursue the matter related to reduction in export duty or its total abolition with the central government.
Parsekar also said that welfare schemes for the mining-affected people would continue till mining restarts. “We will take a call on what to do with the scheme after full resumption of mining,” he said. The mining companies would have to henceforth go in for self-regulation to avoid any situation like the one which happened in the current case.
Responding to a query on whether there was any possibility of the government decision being challenged by anyone, he said that in a democratic setup everybody was free to take legal course even as he said that he believed that there was no scope for anyone to challenge the government decision.
Addressing the media on Monday, the Chief Minister said that the government doesn’t want to table the Budget without the MoEF revoking the suspension on ECs of mining leases. “I spoke to the minister (MoEF Prakash Javadekar). I told him that it is high time that the suspension of ECs be revoked. We have completed all formalities required from our side,” Parsekar said. “I have told him that I don’t want to table the Budget without revoking suspension on ECs. We want to consider the revenue from the mining industry, without that, the Budget is not possible.” Parsekar expressed hope that the suspension will be revoked ‘at any time’. “The letter can come any time. We are waiting for it,” he said. Following Supreme Court directives, a detailed lease-wise cap of iron ore annual production has been submitted to the MoEF, he said.
The annual ore production limit has been set at 20 million tonnes by the Apex Court-appointed capping committee. Former MoEF minister Jayanti Natarajan had suspended ECs of 139 mining leases in 2012, following State government’s suspension of mining activities on September 11, 2012. Government in January lifted its suspension and accordingly renewed 89 mining leases.