India’s mining boom started as the 21st century began. Odisha and Jharkhand were among the state governments that benefited hugely from it.
But it is the mining companies — not the people — that have earned massive profits. Charges of large-scale corruption in the mining of natural resources are flying thick and fast.
In Bhubaneshwar, it is said, the ‘iron ore mining scam’ is the ‘2G scam’ of the Biju Janata Dal government which rules Odisha. According to Union Minister and Congress leader Srikant Kumar Jena, “From 2003-2004 onwards, a handful of mine owners have raked in profits worth over Rs 200,000 crore (Rs 2 trillion).”
Jena wants a proper investigation into the mining of 500 million tonnes of iron ore in Odisha in the last ten years.
In an interview with Rediff.com’s Sheela Bhatt, Jena points the finger of suspicion towards Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for conniving with “unscrupulous mine owners.”
Can you tell us something about the allegations of scams related to the mining of iron ore in Odisha?
For the last ten years, the mining scam is taking place in Odisha. In our state, huge varieties of minerals and metals, including iron ore, bauxite, chromite and manganese, are abundantly available.
Odisha’s iron ore is of a higher grade and we have 35 percent of India’s [ Images ] iron ore reserves.
There are about 200 players operating in Odisha’s mining sector. The mining boom started around 2003-2004.
The price of iron ore has gone upto Rs 7,000 per tonne. The royalty base has not increased. It is hardly Rs 30 per tonne.
The cost of mining is hardly Rs 400 per tonne.
It is clear that mine-owners make a windfall profit of Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 per tonne. The Indian Bureau of Mines approved the mining plan. The mining operators went on mining beyond the plan approved by the IBM.
Mining have taken place even in areas which were not cleared by the ministry of mining and the ministry of forests and environment.