SC allows SMPL to resume mining operation in Odisha, JSPL to transport iron-ore

New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) In a relief to Sarda Mines Pvt Ltd (SMPL), the Supreme Court Thursday allowed it to resume operations in Odisha on depositing Rs 933 crore towards environmental compensation by February 29.

The top court also allowed Naveen Jindal-led JSPL to transport its iron ore stock (29,977.818 ton of lumps and about 12.2 million ton of fines) stacked at dispatch point of SMPL's mine at Thakurani block in Keonjhar district of the state.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said that Jindal Steel Power Ltd (JSPL) can transport its Iron-ore subject to payment made by SMPL towards the environmental compensation.

'SMPL's prayer for modification of our order dated January 15, 2020 passed in..., wherein one month time was granted for payment of dues as assessed by the CEC, is accepted. SMPL must pay its dues and give the requisite undertaking by February 29, 2020 post which alone it shall be at liberty to resume its mining operations as per our order dated January 15, 2020,' the bench said.

It added, 'Once SMPL complies with direction, JSPL can lift the already mined, processed and royalty paid Iron Ore lying at the dispatch point within SMPL's premises and transport these stocks to its plants across the country. The proceeds thereof must be deposited with the Trust and Retention Account under the custody of the State Bank of India'.

The top court, however, made it clear that failure to comply with the directions shall result in any such sale being 'deemed legally void'.

SMPL was a supplier of high-quality iron-ore from its Thakurani B-Block mines to the JSPL's pellet plant at Deojhar, Odisha and was closed on March 31, 2014, for want of environment clearances.

While reserving its verdict in the case on January 16, the apex court had said it was 'not averse' to allowing JSPL to transport the high-quality iron ore from the non-functional Sarda Mines.

The top court had earlier taken on record an undertaking from SMPL for payment of Rs 933 crore towards environmental compensation to the state government.

The counsel for SMPL had earlier told the top court that it had on January 15 allowed it to resume the mining operation at Thakurani iron-ore mines provided it makes the payment of its dues to the state government within a month.

He had sought time till the end of February to comply with the direction of payment on the ground that the mine was closed for over five years and the company did not have any earnings.

JSPL had earlier contended that it had taken loan from SBI led consortium of banks for purchase of minerals stacked in one corner of the mine and these stocks were in turn hypothecated with the consortium.

It had said that company has already paid the royalty and other taxes for the processed and legally procured stock from SMPL.

The top court had earlier asked SMPL to file an undertaking to comply with all the rules, regulations and other mandatory provisions for carrying out mining operations.

The apex court had said that upon the fulfilment of these conditions -- payment of dues and filing of undertaking -- SMPL can resume its mining operations in the leased area for the remainder of its lease period.

The CEC in its report of May 8, 2019, had said that from 2001-02 to 2010-11 SMPL produced 135,34,703 ton of excess quantity of iron-ore in violation of the environmental clearances granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and assessed the dues towards compensation to be around Rs 933 crore.

Odisha government and the CEC had expressed no objection to the prayer of SMPL for resuming of operation at the mines provided it deposited the assessed dues and strictly complied with all other mandatory rules, regulations and conditions for conducting mining operations. PTI MNL ABA SJK RKS SA