Court cracks down

Published: Thursday 31 July 2008

the Madhya Pradesh High Court has ordered closure of 1,712 illegal mines in the state. Of these mines operating without the approval of the state pollution control board, 253 are extracting major minerals and 1,459, minor minerals.

The court asked the state's mining and mineral resources department to implement its July 2 order and allowed mining firms to apply to the pollution control board for clearances.

The order was in response to a public interest litigation filed by a Bhopal-based environmental ngo Paryavartan in February 2008. After admitting the petition, the court issued notices to the central government, Central Pollution Control Board, Madhya Pradesh government and its mining department.

The court asked the state pollution control board to submit an affidavit providing the detailed status of mines working in the state without permission. On March 19 the board submitted that of 4,100 mines in the state, 2,697 mines were operating without its consent. The board said it had issued notices, served closure orders and even prosecuted some of the mines, yet they continued to operate. It also pointed out that the mining department would be in a better position to appraise the court of their status. The court then directed the secretary of the department to file a report on the status of illegal mines.

On May 14, the department told the court that there were 2,907 mines in the state which did not have proper clearance. Of these 1,195 mines were "non-operational". This meant that only 1,712 mines were operating without proper clearance. The department also stated that the state had total 5,069 mines. "The inconsistency in the figures provided by the board and the mining department speaks volumes about the apathy of the administration. Variation of about 1,000 mines in the figures shows their gross failure in accounting of mining activities in the state," said Siddharth Gupta, the petitioner's council.

The court has also directed the mining department to submit a compliance report by August 11, 2008.

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