Metals & Mining News

Saranda forest: Delhi HC rejects ArcelorMittal’s plea for mining lease in Saranda forest

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The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition by ArcelorMittal India seeking grant of mining lease in Jharkhand’s Saranda forest division.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna found no merit in ArcelorMittal’s petition, saying the approval granted by the Centre to the company in 2007 and 2008 was conditional and no mining lease could be executed in its favour in the absence of the pre-conditions being met.

“It is to be noted that till date, the petitioner does not have approval of the Central government under Section 2(ii) of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The petitioner also does not have environment clearance under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” the court said.

The company had June 2007 filed an application for grant of mining lease for iron and manganese ore in Meghahatuburu Taluka, Karampada Reserve Forest over an area of about 500 hectares for captive use.

While the Central government had in 2008 accorded its approval under for grant of mining lease for 30 years, subject to fulfilment of certain conditions, including obtaining forest clearance (FC), under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Even the Jharkhand government had issued a Letter of Intent (LoI) for grant of the mining lease subject to certain conditions.

Later in April 2009, the company sought diversion of 202.35 hectares of forest land. The Central government rejected its application for the mining lease on the grounds that since January 11, 2017, the cut-off date under Section 10A(2)(c) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, mining in the subject area was not permitted. Since the cut-off date had expired, now only auction was possible. Since there was no FC in favour of the company, the EC of October 2011 had no significance. The Ministry also said that the LoI in favour of ArcelorMittal was not valid as the period of two years under Section 10A(2)(c) of the MMDR Act for obtaining the clearances was over.ArcelorMittal then moved the HC in 2017 saying it was entitled to the grant of a mining lease as it met all the requirements provided under the statute.Rejecting the company’s plea, the HC Thursday said that the statutory requirement as per the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015 was that of fulfilling the conditions of the LoI including obtaining the forest clearance (FC) on or before the cut off date of January, 11, 2017. “Therefore, no relief can be granted to the petitioner contrary to the prevailing statutory provisions,” it added.

The HC also accepted Jharkhand counsel Jayant Mohan stand that there had been no undue or unexplained delay on its part in processing the company’s application for FC. The state was being cautious keeping in view the far reaching implications of such a huge tract of forest land being used for non-forest purpose for mining, while simultaneously acting as per precautionary principles and sustainable development, he said.

The Bench also took note of the government-appointed MB Shah committee’s suggestions that no fresh leases should be granted in the Saranda region. However, the company’s proposed mining area was included in the proposed conservation reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the HC said.

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