Odisha slaps Rs 20,169cr penalty notice on Mahanadi coalfields

The Odisha government has sent a Rs 20,169-crore show cause notice on Coal India  subsidiary Mahanadi Coalfields for alleged violation of environmental norms, in its biggest claim since the Supreme Court’s August 2 order imposing 100% penalty on illegal mining.
“We have sent them a show-cause notice for exceeding their environmental clearance, mining plan and permission granted under the air and water acts,” said Deepak Mohanty, Odisha mines director. “They have 30 days to respond, contest and make their grievances, before final notices are issued,” he said.
Officials said penalty claims on Mahanadi Coalfields (MCL) will increase further because the current notice does not include claims against the company allegedly carrying out mining in forest areas without permission, for which claims are still being calculated by the state’s forest department.
Acting on the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement on August 2, Odisha’s mining department had already sent notices totalling Rs 17,576 crore to 152 iron ore and manganese mines, including those of Orissa Mining Corporation, Tata Steel and Aditya Birla Group’s Essel Mining for alleged violations of the Environment Protection Act 1986.
A second batch of claims, totalling about Rs 2,000 core, for alleged violations of air and water pollution acts, forest act, and for exceeding mining plans have also been issued.
The apex court recently declined to entertain pleas from mining companies to extend the deadline of December 31, 2017 for recovering penalties from defaulters.
The case in the Supreme Court pertained to violations of iron ore and manganese miners in Odisha. But the order would apply to miners across the country and across minerals.
The far-reaching consequences of the August 2 order has left several state and central agencies in a fix, unable to move forward without legal clarity.
This includes the expert appraisal committee of the central ministry of environment, forest and climate change and Goa State Pollution Control Board.
In Odisha’s case, the mines department is acting on the advice of its advocate general who said the order would apply to coal and chrome mines.
In a recent order, the revision authority at the Centre dismissed petitions from chrome miners seeking a stay on earlier recovery notices sent to them, saying the August 2 order would apply to them as well.
Odisha is yet to re-issue notices to chrome mines.