Odisha in a fix as SC seeks Centre's view on imposing cap on mining in state

The SC observation assumes much significance as the mining sector contributes nearly Rs 50,000 crore annual revenue to the state exchequer

Bhubaneswar: In a significant development, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry to give its inputs on imposing a ceiling on iron ore mining in Odisha.

The SC observation assumes much significance as the mining sector contributes nearly Rs 50,000 crore annual revenue to the state exchequer. The state’s total revenue receipts for 2023-24 have been estimated to be Rs 1,85,370 crore.

A possible cap on the mining sector, according to experts, will squeeze the state’s government’s resource mobilisation capability.

According to news agency ANI, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, was considering an application claiming that the state’s iron reserves are liable to come to an end within 20 years.

“What is the ministry of environment’s view?” it asked as it considered an affidavit filed by the mines ministry, adding that the reply document did not consider the environmental-related aspects.

“It cannot be that only the Ministry of mines looks at it. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has to apply its mind and tell us (on imposing a camp),” the bench said.

Additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, submitted that a fresh affidavit from the expert ministry will be placed on record.

Opposing the application, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing on behalf of the Odisha government, submitted that the availability of resources has grown with increasing consumption and the future generation is not just not going to process this raw material.

“This iron ore leads to production of steel which is important for defence, all industries, and expanding railways. Any curtailment is going to mean that the future will suffer much more,” he said, adding that intergenerational equity should not be looked at from the point of view of a particular resource only.

Dwivedi also contended that the argument that resources will be exhausted in the next 20-25 years has no basis.

In a hearing held in August, the top court had asked the Union government to “decide whether a cap on mining is necessitated in the case of the state of Odisha and, if so, the modalities to be followed for determining such a cap,” the news agency reported.

It had added that in arriving at its decision, the Union of India shall also examine the basis on which a cap was imposed in the states of Karnataka and Goa. Also, the apex court called for a fresh status report from the state government on the issue of recovering outstanding dues on account of illegal mining and attaching the assets of the defaulting entities.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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