Metals & Mining News

mines: Mines Ministry opposes cap on iron ore production in Odisha, Supreme Court seeks MOEF’s stand


Unsatisfied with the Ministry of Mines’ response that no capping is warranted on production of iron ore in Odisha, the Supreme Court on Monday sought the independent view of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) on the impact of mining on the environment and the concept of intergenerational equity, the issues not looked at by the former.The Ministry of Mines told the SC that steel being an important pillar in achieving the economic goals of the nation and in making India self-reliant, any such capping would be highly detrimental towards achieving the common developmental goals of the nation. “Putting a cap on production of a mineral in a particular state, which is resource rich in that commodity, will jeopardise the economic development of the nation, mineral availability for the downstream industries and the requirement to sub-serve the huge population base of the country,” it said.A bench led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud sought to know if the MoEF was consulted by the Ministry of Mines on the issue. It also asked for the response from the SC-appointed Central Empowered Committee on capping iron ore mining in Odisha. “The MoEFCC has to apply its mind and tell…that is the expert ministry dealing with the environment,” the bench said.

The SC also directed the Odisha government to file a fresh affidavit giving details of recoveries made from defaulter mining firms from the last order passed on August 14, the outstanding dues and details of properties of mining firms which were attached for recovery of dues. In August, the top court had noted that the Odisha government had recovered a substantial amount in fines from the defaulting mining firms, but Rs 2,622 crore was yet to be collected from them.

The responses were sought after counsel Pranav Sachdeva, appearing for Common Cause, the petitioner NGO, argued that the iron ore was set to be exhausted in 20 years keeping in view the present pace of mining and insisted for a direction on capping of iron ore production.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Mines ministry, on Monday said the ministry has examined the matter in the light of the quantum of iron ore resources in the country and the cap imposed in Karnataka and Goa.

The Ministry of Mines, which governs and administers the MMDR Act, in its affidavit stated that iron and steel are the driving force behind industrial development of any country. “The vitality of the iron and steel industry largely influences a country’s economic status. The mining of iron ore, an essential raw material for the iron and steel industry, is arguably of prime importance among all mining activities undertaken by any country.

“With the total resources of over 35.280 billion tonnes or 35,280 million tonnes of iron ore, India is one of the leading producers of iron ore in the world,” the mines ministry stated, adding that Odisha being the backbone of iron ore production in the country contributes more than half of the total production of the iron ore in the country.

Citing India Minerals yearbook, the ministry said that out of the total iron ore production of 253.97 million tonnes, Odisha alone produced 136.36 million tonnes in 2022-23.

It stated that India is currently on a high growth trajectory and in this infrastructure developmental phase, the input for steel production will primarily be sourced through iron ore mining. The current per capita consumption of steel of 77.2 Kg is much lower than the current global average of 208 Kg. Even the envisaged per capita consumption of 158 Kg steel by 2030-31 would still be lower than current global average, the ministry stated.

Despite the increasing production of iron ore in the country, the resources of iron ore have also increased over the years, the mines ministry said. “Even after the cumulative national production of approximately 4047.78 million tonnes of iron since 2000-01, the resources of iron ore in the country have increased from 17,712 million tonnes in 2000 to 35,280 million tonnes in 2020, which is an increase of nearly 10% in resource augmentation. Thus, even with the tripling of production since 2000, the resources of iron ore in the country have doubled,” the affidavit stated.

The Odisha government estimated iron ore reserves on the geologically explored strata at present at 9220 tonnes and said that there is a likelihood of this increasing in the future.


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