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Supreme Court stays environment ministry's move to allow mining without green nod

NEW DELHI: In what could halt many mining activities, the Supreme Court on Monday stayed a ministry of environment and forests notification permitting mining in forest areas for two years without clearances under Forest Conservation Actand Environment Protection Act

The February 1, 2013 notification had told states that mining activities in forest areas should be stopped if the lease holder failed to obtain clearances under FCA and EPA within two years of commencing mining operations. 

Amicus curiae and senior advocate 
Harish Salve took objection to this notification saying allowing mining for two years would cause irreversible damage to forests and environment. A bench of Justices A K Patnaik, S S Nijjar and F M I Kalifulla agreed with the amicus and ordered stay of the notification. 

The notification had said mining leases, which fell fully or partly within forest areas, must obtain approval under FCA for diversion of the forest area for mining purposes within two years. If the user failed to get the FCA clearance in two years, then mining would be restricted to non-forest area, the notification had said. 

Salve also raised another important issue relating to use of net present value, which was calculated to compensate loss of forest land as well as alternative forestation plans and other related issues, for the benefit of original inhabitants - the tribal people. 

He said the apex court had directed that 50% of the NPV would be used for welfare of the tribal community but there was no mechanism to ensure end use of the funds deposited by companies towards NPV. 

The bench asked the Odisha government to detail within four weeks the mechanism it has put in place to ensure that 50% of the NPV was actually used for tribal welfare.

The Times of India (28-01-2014)