“No mining activity should be permitted without the consent of local Gram Sabhas,” former Union Secretary E.A.S. Sarma told The Hindu.
Taking exceptions to media reports that the Department of Mines is trying to streamline the procedures for granting mining leases to reduce the clearance time to 30 days, former Union Secretary E.A.S. Sarma has said that it will be detrimental to people living in the proposed mining areas and may create huge environmental and ecological issues.
Speaking to The Hindu here on Tuesday, he said that it is understood that there are hundreds of mining lease applications pending and the intention is to expedite the clearances.
The mining activity may yield limited revenue for the State but in the long run causes irreversible adverse impacts on the local environment, if they are not complied with the PESA (Panchayat Extension to Schedule Areas) Act and Forest Rights Act (FRA).
He said that in most of the mining leases, the mining work is taken up often without prior clearance, mining area extends over the proposed lease area, minerals other than those approved extracted and mining undertaken indiscriminately violates the forest laws.
In a letter to Gopala Krishna Dwivedi, Principal Secretary of Mines Department, and Kantilal Dande, Secretary, Tribal Welfare Department, the former Union Secretary pointed out that no mining lease should be cleared without a public hearing and prior Environment Clearance (EC) issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) under the Environment (Protection) Act and in the case where the mining leases are located within or adjacent to the forests, prior clearance should be obtained under the relevant forest laws from the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the MoEFCC.
He said that if the mining activity is in the Scheduled Areas, it is imperative that the provisions of the Panchayat Extension to Schedul e Areas Act and the Forest Rights Act are complied with strictly.
“No mining activity should be permitted without the prior consent of the local Gram Sabhas. This position has been emphasised by the Supreme Court in the Vedanta case and no mining activity should be allowed to be undertaken by non-tribals in such areas, as emphasised by the apex court in the Samata judgment,” he said.
According to him, broad-based tribal cooperatives alone should be permitted to undertake mining as per the Samata Judgement.
He urged the State government to to exercise due diligence in clearing the mining leases.