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EC holds key to Tata mine lease

 

 

 

 

Ranchi, Nov. 7: The state today moved Jharkhand High Court to seek a clarification from Election Commission (EC) on whether Tata Steel can get interim permission for mining.

With the model code of conduct in force in poll-bound Jharkhand, the state can’t take this decision on its own.

Tata Steel moved the high court when its mining rights of iron ore in the Noamundi mines in West Singhbhum were clamped by the state in September, choking a bulk of its raw material supply.

Tata Steel’s counsel Indrajit Sinha today pleaded with the court to allow interim mining in Noamundi, a critical captive supplier of ore.

The actual lease renewal is hanging fire, as the state government’s October 22 circular on terms and conditions, including hefty remuneration, is not finding corporate favour.

In response to counsel Sinha’s plea, additional advocate-general Ajit Kumar argued that the state could not take any decision now as it would tantamount to breaching the model code of conduct.

The state now needs to place the issue before the EC. The next hearing is on November 18 by when the state will have to convey the poll panel’s views to the court.

Like its PSU counterpart SAIL, the steel major is also learnt to be “upset” by the state mines department circular issued on October 22. In it, the state asked for around Rs 3,500 crore from Tata Steel for interim mining between lease expiry and third renewal as a condition to renew the lease. “This is not acceptable,” the counsel is learnt to have said.

Sinha added they were willing to comply with the conditions of the state except those it “feels are illegal”.

The mining lease issue dates back to September 3 when the state issued a notification to ban mining activities in, among others, Tata Steel’s iron ore mines in Noamundi.

Leased to the steel major in January 1922 for 30 years, tenures were renewed in January 1952 and January 1982.

The second renewal of the lease expired on December 31, 2011, but before this, Tata Steel had applied for a third renewal. While the application was pending, Tata Steel’s mining activities went on unhindered under “deemed extension”.

But, with amendments made in Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act on July 18 this year by the Centre in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling on mines in Odisha, the state cancelled Tata Steel’s mining rights on September 3.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1141108/jsp/frontpage/story_1209.jsp#.VF4TB75n9BU

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