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The Union Cabinet has given its ex post facto approval to the signing of MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between India and Morocco in the field of mining and geology. The MoU will provide an institutional mechanism between India and Morocco for cooperation in the field of geology and mining. This cooperation will be mutually beneficial on economic, social and environmental fields in both countries. The MoU aims to strengthen cooperation between India and Morocco in the field of mining and geology. The activities involved in the cooperation viz. development of geological infrastructure, promotion of mining and geology, training programs and establishment of geological data bank would serve the objective of innovation.

Ministry of Mines

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the role and power of the Central Government while dealing with the request of a State Government for reservation of lands for government companies or corporations owned and controlled by the State Government under Section 17A(2) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, 1957 was in question, the Bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ held

“The State Government being the owner of the land and minerals, has a right to make a proposal to the Central Government to reserve lands not held under a prospecting licence or mining lease for exploitation by the State Government companies or undertakings but approval of the Central Government is necessary.”

The Court further clarified that each case has to be decided on its own merits and that the Central Government cannot be bound by any specific parameters. However, the Central Government can not only take into consideration factors of national security or public interest but also economic factors, the policy of the Government and all such other factors which are relevant to decide the issue whether the land should be reserved for exploitation only by State Government Undertakings;

Regarding the question as to the scope of applicability of Section 11(1) and Section 17A(2) of the Act and the effect of the right of preference granted to Reconnaissance Permit holder in terms of Section 11(1) of the Act while dealing with a matter under Section 17A(2) of the Act, the Court held that  Section 11(1) and Section 17A(2) of the Act have no connection with each other. Section 11(1) of the Act deals with preference to be given to Reconnaissance Permit holder and Prospecting Licence holder while considering their case for grant of Prospecting Licence and Mining Lease respectively. This has nothing to do with reservation of land under Section 17A(2) of the Act. The only connection, if it can be called that, is that if a land is held under a Prospecting Licence or Mining Lease, then action under Section 17A(2) of the Act cannot even be initiated. [Geomysore Services (I) Pvt. Ltd.v. Hutti Goldmines Co. Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine SC 503, decided on 08.05.2018]

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Supreme Court: Coming down heavily upon Haryana Government for auctioning 558.53 hectares of land for mining purposes, though the available area was only 141.76 hectares, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ said:

“”You cannot go on making fool of the citizens like this. You are the state and it is your responsibility to ensure that what was advertised should be given.”

Observing that the petitioner firm was entitled to a refund of the deposited amount, the Court directed the state to refund the money the firm along with 9 per cent interest per annum from the date of deposit till the date of payment, keeping in view the “vast discrepancy” of area mentioned in the advertisement and area of land made available.

When the counsel for Haryana said it was the duty of the company to ascertain whether the land was actually 558.53 hectares, an annoyed bench said “it is very easy to blame the citizens for everything just because you are in power”. The bench said:

“The public notice was for 558.53 hectares. How can you give only 141.76 hectres and say it is the duty of applicant to verify this.”

Source: PTI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Showing dismay over large-scale illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore in the State of Goa, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ issued several directions to ensure implementation of mining related environment protection laws and said:

“For the State to generate adequate revenue through the mining sector and yet have sustainable and equitable development, the implementation machinery needs a tremendous amount of strengthening while the law enforcement machinery needs strict vigilance. Unless the two marry, we will continue to be mute witnesses to the plunder of our natural resources and left wondering how to retrieve an irretrievable situation.”

Clarifying the directions issued by the Court in Goa Foundation v. Union of India, (2014) 6 SCC 590, on 21st April 2014, the Bench said that as per the said decision, the State of Goa was obliged to grant fresh mining leases in accordance with law and not second renewals to the mining lease holders. Also, the State of Goa was not under any constitutional obligation to grant fresh mining leases through the process of competitive bidding or auction.

The Court noticed:

“The second renewal of the mining leases granted by the State of Goa was unduly hasty, without taking all relevant material into consideration and ignoring available relevant material and therefore, not in the interests of mineral development. The decision was taken only to augment the revenues of the State which is outside the purview of Section 8(3) of the MMDR Act.”

The Bench also clarified that the Ministry of Environment and Forest was obliged to grant fresh environmental clearances in respect of fresh grant of mining leases in accordance with law and the decision of this Court in Goa Foundation and not merely lift the abeyance order of 14th September, 2012.

Hence, the Court set aside the second renewal of the mining leases granted by the State of Goa is liable to be set aside and issued the following directions:

  • The mining lease holders who have been granted the second renewal in violation of the decision and directions of this Court in Goa Foundation are given time to manage their affairs and may continue their mining operations till 15th March, 2018. However, they are directed to stop all mining operations with effect from 16th March, 2018 until fresh mining leases (not fresh renewals or other renewals) are granted and fresh environmental clearances are granted.
  • The State of Goa should take all necessary steps to grant fresh mining leases in accordance with the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. The Ministry of Environment and Forest should also take all necessary steps to grant fresh environmental clearances to those who are successful in obtaining fresh mining leases. The exercise should be completed by the State of Goa and the Ministry of Environment and Forest as early as reasonably practicable.
  • The State of Goa will take all necessary steps to ensure that the Special Investigation Team and the team of Chartered Accountants constituted pursuant to the Goa Grant of Mining Leases Policy 2014 give their report at the earliest and the State of Goa should implement the reports at the earliest, unless there are very good reasons for rejecting them.
  • The State of Goa will take all necessary steps to expedite recovery of the amounts said to be due from the mining lease holders pursuant to the show cause notices issued to them and pursuant to other reports available with the State of Goa including the report of Special Investigation Team and the team of Chartered Accountants.

In Goa Foundation case, it was held that all the iron ore and manganese ore leases had expired on 22nd November, 2007 and hence, any mining operation carried out by the mining lease holders after that date was illegal. It was also held that all the mining lease holders had enjoyed a first deemed renewal of the mining lease and for a second renewal an express order was required to be passed in view of and in terms of Section 8(3) of the MMDR Act. [Goa Foundation v. Sesa Sterlite Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine SC 98, decided on 07.02.2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Concerned over a mining scandal of enormous proportions involving megabucks in the State of Odisha, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ said that though the Court cannot lay down limits on the extent of mining activities that should be permitted by the State of Odisha or by the Union of India, this is an aspect that needs serious consideration by the policy and decision makers in our country in the governance structure. The Court hence, directed the Union of India to revisit the National Mineral Policy, 2008 and announce a fresh and more effective, meaningful and implementable policy within the next few months and in any event before 31st December, 2017.

Taking note of the indiscriminate mining operations in Odisha, the Court said there is no effective check on mining operations nor is there any effective mining policy. Regarding the National Mineral Policy, 2008, the Court said that the same seems to be only on paper and is not being enforced perhaps due to the involvement of very powerful vested interests or a failure of nerve. The Court also said that the Policy was almost a decade old and the variety of changes that have taken place since then, including the advent of rapacious mining in several parts of the country, it was necessary that a new updated Policy was brought in.

Directing the constitution of an Expert Committee under the guidance of a retired Supreme Court judge for identifying the lapses that have occurred over the years enabling rampant illegal or unlawful mining in Odisha and measures to prevent this from happening in other parts of the country, the Court said that undoubtedly, there have been very serious lapses that have enabled large scale mining activities to be carried out without forest clearance or environment clearance and eventually the persons responsible for this will need to be booked but as mentioned above, the violation of the laws and policy need to be prevented in other parts of the country. The rule of law needs to be established.

The Court issued the above directions in the light of the rapaciously mining of iron ore and manganese in the districts of Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj in Odisha that has apparently destroyed the environment and forests and has caused untold misery to the tribals in the area. [Common Cause v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 857, decided on 02.08.2017]