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Supreme Court Seeks Union Environment Ministry’s Opinion on Imposing Cap on Mining in Odisha

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry to give its inputs on imposing a ceiling limit on iron ore mining in Odisha.

A bench, headed by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, was considering an application claiming that the state’s iron reserves are liable to come to an end within 20 years.

“What is the Ministry of Environment’s view?” it asked as it considered an affidavit filed by the Mines Ministry, adding that the reply document did not consider the environmental related aspects.

“It cannot be that only the Ministry of Mines looks at it. The Ministry of Environment, Forest (and Climate Change) has to apply its mind and tell us (on imposing a camp),” the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, submitted that a fresh affidavit from the expert ministry will be placed on record.

Opposing the application, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing on behalf of Odisha government, submitted that the availability of resources has grown with increasing consumption and the future generation is not just not going to process this raw material.

“This iron ore leads to production of steel which is important for defence, all industries, and expanding railways. Any curtailment is going to mean that the future will suffer much more,” he said, adding that intergenerational equity should not be looked at from the point of view of a particular resource only.

Dwivedi also contended that the argument that resources will be exhausted in the next 20-25 years has no basis.

In a hearing held in August, the top court had asked the Union government to “decide whether a cap on mining is necessitated in the case of state of Odisha and, if so, the modalities to be followed for determining such a cap”.

It had added that in arriving at its decision, the Union of India shall also examine the basis on which a cap was imposed in the states of Karnataka and Goa. Also, the apex court called for a fresh status report from the state government on the issue of recovering outstanding dues on account of illegal mining and attaching the assets of the defaulting entities.

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