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Centre still awaiting ATRs from Goa, Odisha on illegal mining

Despite facing the brunt of Justice MB Shah Commission's stinging observations on rampant illegal mining activities being undertaken in Odisha and Goa, the two states along with Jharkhand are yet to submit updated action take reports (ATRs), explaining the measures they have initiated to curb such operations on the lines of the panel's suggestions to the Centre.

Though the Shah panel, which had submitted its final report to the Centre on illegal mining activities in Goa and Odisha two years back, the concerned states have been quite lax in submitting the ATRs to the Union Mines Ministry, despite repeated reminders.

The probe panel had especially been critical about illegal mining activities in Odisha and Goa, and the Union Mines Ministry has on many occasions, asked these states to submit in detail as to what steps they have undertaken to curb the menace.

In a meeting held earlier this month, the Coordination-cum-Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Union Mines Ministry has now asked the three states to submit the detailed ATRs on Shah Commission's findings on illegal mining, before September 2015, when the CEC will meet again to review the progress of mineral-rich states.

In fact according to information available with this newspaper, the CEC has been asking for ATRs from Goa, Odisha and Jharkhand since September 2014, however the three states are yet to comply with the request.

The non-compliance by the concerned states, especially Goa and Odisha is all the more glaring, considering the fact that it was due to the Shah panel's stinging observations on rampant illegal iron ore mining being undertaken in Goa, that the Supreme Court had banned all such activities there in September 2012, and the ban was lifted only after 18 months in April 2014.

Similarly serious allegations of several mine owners sitting on mining leases for decades had been made by the Shah Commission in its report on Odisha. The panel found that several mines in that state have been operating under "deemed extension" for a period of up to 20 years, as the leases were not renewed under the stipulated time-frame, all of which led to huge losses to the State exchequer.

Post the findings of the Shah panel, the Centre has been keen to curb the menace of illegal mining. The CEC in fact was also critical of the mineral-rich states for not making effective use of space technology, which would help in identifying a few areas of endemic illegal mining - which may be other than the regular leased area - and facilitate regular monitoring of such activities.

The MB Shah panel on illegal mining had been formed by the UPA Govt in October 2010, and after extensively touring states like Goa, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, it had submitted a final report on such activities to the Centre in October 2013.

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