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Jan 10, 2013

Govt is trying to acquire Bauxite mines to the fold of OMC: R K Singh

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Rajanikanta Singh, Steel & Mines Minister, Govt. of Odisha
Shri Rajanikanta Singh, Steel & Mines Minister, Govt. of Odisha, is also a Social worker besides having a rich experience in a PSU for around 20 years in the state. He is the son of Ex-Minister Late Adaita Prasad Singh. Singh is elected as an MLA for the second term in 2009 representing Angul constituency. Having associated with the State's Mining sector for long while in service and also as a Minister as well, he possessed a thorough knowledge regarding the sector. Speaking to Sandeep Pattnaik and Brahmi Priya Samantray, he shared his views about the Mining Industries in the state passing through a tough phase in a very candid way. Excerpts:

Q. Sir, give us some insight into your political career before taking charge as Minister, Steel and Mines, Govt. of Odisha.

A- Before stepping into the Political career, I was working as Chief Manager in Nalco, Angul for 20 years (1982 - 2002). I availed voluntary retirement from Nalco in December 2002 and joined Biju Janata Dal. I have started working for the People of Angul Constituency along with my father Late A.P. Singh, who was an M.L.A at that point of time. Subsequently, he became Planning Board Chairman in the year January 2003. I got elected twice as an MLA from Angul constituency in 2004 & 2009.

Q. To which of the activities you would like to give a priority tag during your tenure as Minister, Steel & Mines?

A- The emphasis of the Department shall be to utilize the available raw materials (Minerals) for the development of our state for economic growth. Government has adopted value addition policy since last 10 years, so far as the, make use of the minerals are concerned.

Q. What is the status so far as to receiving the final report of Justice MB Shah Commission on the much touted Mining scam in the state is concerned?

A- I cannot tell you the exact date on which the commission shall be submitting the report.

Q. According to Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), it’s a case of Irregular mining, but not Illegal Mining. What's your remark on that?

A- In the past few years Odisha came across the problem of excessive mining i.e. exploration of minerals beyond the approved Mining Plan submitted by the IBM. I agree with the contention of IBM of excessive but not illegal mining, as everything is recorded; otherwise we would not have been able to catch hold of these irregularities and impose penalty on the erring miners.

Q. Big industrial houses like Tata Steel are about to challenge the decision of whopping penalties levied on them. Then what would be the Govt's stand in this context?
A- Penalties / Fines have been levied on the Mining Companies in the context of violation of rules under the MMDR act, 1957. Everybody should obey the rules and regulations under the act. We would try our level best to vindicate our stand in the court of law.

Q. Large Industries have to shut down their operations like the Vedanta in Odisha due to non-availability of Bauxite and other key RMs. Then how the government is going to tackle the issue?

A- The government is trying to acquire Bauxite mines to the fold of Odisha Mining Corporation, but nothing tangible has happened yet. In the case of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL), the matter of bauxite mining is pending in the Supreme Court. I cannot comment on the matter which is sub-judice.

Q. People engaged directly or indirectly with Vedanta are likely to lose their livelihood due to the abrupt closure of its refinery at Langigarh. Then what the government is thinking about for their rehabilitation?

A- There is no other Bauxite mines available readily with the State government, as the Niyamgiri Bauxite mining of OMC is now Sub-judice.

Q. Small & Medium industries are reeling under acute shortage of raw materials like iron ore and coal in the state. Does the draft policy on raw material linkage to be unveiled soon will address the concern of these industries?

A- The state government has formed a three-member ministerial committee headed by Finance Minister as chairman, Steel & Mines and Industries Minister as the other two members of the committee. The ministerial committee shall have to submit its report within the time frame of three months ending 31st January. The committee is in the process of consultation with various stakeholders such as industries, Public Sector units like NMDC, OMDC etc., to prepare a proper policy, keeping in view to the problems faced by the industries depending upon Minerals.

Q. The Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 has been put on hold by the Odisha High Court in response to a PIL filed in the recent past. Then how the government is going to counter it?

A- The Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 is an act enacted by the Parliament. The State Government has nothing to do with this. So far as the filing of PIL is concerned, government will consult the Advocate General of Odisha and put forth the opinion before the Hon’ble High court.

Q. The State Government is urging the centre to levy Mineral Resource Rent Tax on the super normal profits earned by the Miners. Do you think, it is going to be materialized soon?
A- The Chief Minister of Odisha has time and again asked the centre to divert 50 percent of the super normal profit earned by the mining companies to the State by way of taxing them. But nothing concrete has been done by the Government of India as of now.

Q. Does the existing MMDR act need to be in its present form or to be revamped? Give your view.

A- It is the prerogative of the Government of India to make suitable amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act as and when it is required. The state can only give its recommendations to the Centre.


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