New Delhi: Sarda Mines Pvt Ltd (SMPL) can resume mining operations at its Thakurani iron-ore mines in Keonjhar district provided it pays around Rs 933 crore towards environmental compensation to the Odisha government.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant has granted one month to SMPL to deposit the dues amounting to around Rs 933 crore, an amount assessed by Central Environment Committee (CEC).
Thakurani mines of SMPL was a supplier of a high quality ore to Naveen Jindal-led Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) plant.
The top court also asked SMPL to file an undertaking to comply with all the rules, regulations and other mandatory provisions for carrying out mining operations.
It said that upon fulfilment of these conditions i.e. payment of dues and filing of undertaking, SMPL can resume its mining operations in the leased area for the remaining part of its lease period.
Earlier, SMPL had contended before the top court that it has suffered irreparable injury and highlighted how it has already lost more than five-and-a-half years and now it had hardly six months of lease period left. The mining firm had asked for permission to resume mining operations saying it would furnish an undertaking or bank guarantee equivalent to its dues assessed by the CEC.
In another case filed by Odisha government against JSPL related to transportation of ores worth Rs 2000 crore, stacked in SMPL, the SC asked the mining firm to furnish an undertaking by January 16 for payment of its dues to the Odisha government. JSPL will be allowed to transport iron ore only if SMPL gives an undertaking that it will comply with the directions of the court and pay the outstanding amount, said the apex court.
“Your ore kept at mines is the guarantee that SMPL will pay the outstanding amount towards environmental compensation to the state,” the bench told senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for JSPL. Rohatgi said that JSPL should be allowed to lift iron ore material from its long term supplier Sarda Mines as it is affecting its business.
“This mine used to supply me ore for nearly 15 years but five years back, the mine was closed. Since then my extracted ore is lying in one corner of the mine. I have taken a loan of Rs 2000 crore from State Bank of India to purchase the ore from Sarda Mines but I cannot transport it due to the stay orders,” he said, representing JSPL.
The bench has listed the matter for Thursday for furnishing an undertaking by SMPL.
The mining company had also undertaken before the top court to pay the sale proceeds of its stacked iron ore towards the demand raised against it by the Odisha for illegal mining in order to augment the State’s revenue as well as reduce its liabilities.