A two-member team of the Justice M B Shah Commission of enquiry is scheduled to visit Odisha, between May 24-27 to take up field verification of mine leases in iron ore rich Joda and Koira belts.

While the team members are scheduled to visit Joda and Koira on May 25-26, they will inspect the procedure adopted by Odisha Space Application Centre for generation of digitized maps of mine leases at its lab. The probe panel which earlier visited the state four times to investigate cases of illegal mining, will be represented in this visit by two members- Bishwajeet Mishra, conservator of forests (Karnataka) and Janardan Prasad, senior geologist, Gujarat unit of Geological Survey of India.

“Two members of the Shah commission are reaching the state on March 24. They will visit Joda and Koira on May 25-26 to check progress of survey work of mine lease boundaries,” said director (mines) Deepak Mohanty.

The state government had recently completed its field probe through an inter-departmental team to detect presence of mining operations beyond leasehold area. While the field survey at various sites in iron ore rich Keonjhar district has found some old and abandoned pits, no major irregularities have been detected.

The visiting members of the Shah panel would check if the field verification was carried out in compliance with the panel’s guidelines. The members would also check if land use by the mine lessees is in accordance with the forest diversion plan, procedure followed in grant of surface rights to miners and safety measures undertaken by the miners in the safety zone.

Mohanty informed that out of 44 mine leases where the fresh mapping survey was being carried out, data collection is through in case of 19 leases.

During the recent hearing of the probe panel in Odisha in March, mine owners also pointed out discrepancies in mapping of lease boundaries. The miners held that the panel members superimposed Google images with the revenue map to determine lease area encroachment, which they claimed was not authentic. Similarly, the DGPS (differential global positioning system) map prepared by the state government agency ORSAC was also not up to the mark, the miners had argued.

The lesses had demanded pillar-to-pillar survey of their mining leases instead of satellite images to get accurate information regarding encroachment.

The commission had thereafter called for conduct of a fresh survey wherein  miners agreed to pay Rs four lakh per sq km to conduct the physical survey in their area.

Courtesy: Business Standard