PANAJI: Even though iron ore extraction in most mining leases has nearly come to a halt in preparation for implementation of the Supreme Court order directing closure of all mines with effect from March 16, the government on Monday relaxed its earlier order and granted leaseholders time to continuing with mining operations till March 15.
The government vide an order issued on Monday modified its earlier order directing mine owners to stop ore extraction by 6 pm on March 13 and allowed the mine owners to extract ore till March 15, giving them almost two additional days.
The additional time has been granted following a request by the leaseholders.
“The extraction of mineral ore is to be carried out as per mining plan duly approved by Indian Bureau of Mines in terms of provisions of MMDR Act 1957 and Mineral Conservation Rules 1988 under monitoring of Regional Controller of Mines, Indian Bureau of Mines, Margao,” says the revised circular.
Industry sources, however, said the extension in deadline is pointless as barely eight-nine minor leaseholders are carrying on with ore extraction and big players were already in a shutdown mode.
According to a source, the extension would hardly have any impact on iron ore output or increasing royalty income to the government. He added that some of the big companies have already exhausted their allocated limit and have therefore stopped operations.
Earlier on March 6, the department of mines had issued notices to mining companies asking them to stop operations by 6 pm on March 13, stop transportation of ore by 6 pm on March 14 and move out the machinery from the lease area by March 15.
Several mining belt MLAs are upset with the government directive and have been vocal in expressing their displeasure.
The latest circular has asked the leaseholders to stop extraction and transportation. It also asked the leaseholders to clear out the machinery from the lease area by March 15. Transportation of ore will not be permitted beyond 7 pm of March 15, the order stated.
Information gathered from the department of mines reveal that all of the 39 active leases were into hyper production mode after the SC order.
Production of iron ore for 2017-18 had recently peaked to 10.4 million tonne as on March 11 2018. It was barely seven to eight million tonne until January and increased by one million tonne over the week. The government during the current year has earned Rs 256.4 crore by way of royalty.
On February 7, the SC struck down the renewal of 88 mining leases as they had been done hastily by the state and were not beneficial for mineral development.
Of the 88 leases, 39 leases are active and in production.
Even among the 39 leases, several were going slow on production due to slump in export prices in the international market. Initial fear was that current year production would be abysmally low due to poor market conditions. But post the SC order, mining companies stepped up extraction but the increased extraction was below the production cap of 20 million tonne.
Source:: The Navhind Times