New Delhi: The Environment Ministry on Wednesday gave forest clearance to Steel Authority of India Limited for mining iron ore from Chiria reserves in Jharkhand with 13 specific conditions.
“The approval is being given subject to the usual conditions governing forest clearance (like those relating to compensatory afforestation). There are 13 specific conditions that are being stipulated for this approval,” environment minister Jairam Ramesh said.
Maharatna SAIL had sought permission for diversion of 595 hectares of land which is 25% of the total Chiria mine area. The permission was sought for a period of 20 years.
Ramesh said that one of the factors for this approval was that “Chiria is essential for the future of SAIL.”
Over the next 50 years, around 40% of iron ore requirement of the SAIL will be met from Chiria mines.
Conditions stipulated by the Ministry includes that only mining and primary and secondary crushing would take place in the forest area, mining in the diverted area will be done in phases and SAIL will earmark at least 2% of net profit for corporate social responsibility in Chiria region, which is affected by left wing extremism and is home to several tribal groups.
The conditions say that there should be zero discharge into Koena river, steps should be taken to ensure that the river does not get polluted and forest roads should not be used by SAIL during night time.
Ramesh said that while deciding to accord approval, the Ministry also considered facts like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh writing a letter to the chief minister of Jharkhand in August 2007 for renewal of leases in SAIL’s favour “in the broader national interest”.
“SAIL has a Rs18,000 crore IPO on the anvil, 50% whose proceeds will accrue to the Government of India. Thus an early decision has to be taken without waiting for perfect information,” the minister added.
Senior steel ministry and SAIL officials had held discussions with Ramesh several times seeking forest clearance for mining iron ore from Chiria, which was mired in controversies.
Chiria reserve is home to about two billion tonnes of rich deposits and SAIL and Jharkhand government had locked horns over renewal of leases for over five years now.
Out of six leases at Chiria with SAIL, renewal of three was under dispute with Jharkhand and is at present pending before the Supreme Court. Two leases are under deemed extension.
Of the leases that SAIL has at present, three - Ajitaburu, Sukri-latur and Tatiburu - are under dispute, while two, Dhobil and Ankua, are under deemed extension, Minister of State for Steel A Sai Prathap had said in December last year.