The Justice MB Shah Commission on illegal mining has asked the Odisha government to recover Rs 60,000 crore from miners in the state for illegally mining iron and manganese ore.
The suggested recovery amount is big enough to run the Centre’s flagship job guarantee programme (MGNREGA) for two years.
The Cabinet has decided to refer the report to a committee of secretaries for further action.
In its report spanning five volumes, the commission has also held the environment ministry and the state mining department responsible for large-scale illegal mining.
The commission has asked the Naveen Patnaik government to use part of the recovered money for development of two backward districts, Keonjhar and Sundargarh, which were badly affected by excess mining.
The commission said all modes of illegal mining were carried out in Odisha and it appeared the law had been made helpless because of systematic non-implementation.
The commission also pointed to blatant violation of environmental laws.
Out of 192 mining leases of iron and manganese ore in the state, 130 lessees were noted to be doing production without lawful authority in violation of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notifications 1994 and 2006.
Moreover, 94 mines were found to be operating without environment clearance (EC), while 96 obtained delayed ECs, the Commission said.
"Overall, 109 mining leases are/were working under deemed extension and doing production in violation of EIA, 1994 and 2006," the commission said.
Such lapses were noticed despite the commission coming out with a similar indictment of the environment ministry in its investigation into illegal mining in Goa.
According to the commission, iron ore worth over Rs 45,453 crore and manganese ore worth over Rs 3,089 crore had been extracted illegally and without lawful authority by the miners in Odisha in violation of environmental clearance conditions.
It has also traced freight evasion cases by iron ore exporters, who moved the mineral under domestic movement category by showing false excise certificates, and recommended that the Railways should ask CBI to investigate the cases.
For movement of iron ore, the Railways has two tariff structures — domestic (having lower tariffs) and other than domestic (having higher tariffs).
According to the commission, the Railways has sent notices to 14 companies for recovery of Rs 1,874 crore for freight evasion.