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MoEF panel asks Jharkhand to examine alleged violations at India’s oldest uranium mine in Jaduguda

An expert forest panel of the union environment ministry has sought a detailed report on alleged violation of forest conservation Act and mining lease at India’s oldest uranium mine in Jaduguda, East Singhbhum in Jharkhand, operating since 1967, ministry documents show. It has also deferred the Uranium Corporation of India Limited’s (UCIL) application for renewal of forest clearance that is required to operate the mine on 135 hectares of forest land, with 100 hectares of underground mining and the rest overground. The forest land, though not part of any protected wildlife area is a part of the Singhbum elephant reserve.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The UCIL is a public-sector enterprise under the Department of Atomic Energy and is responsible for mining uranium ore that is processed and fed to the country’s nuclear power plants.The regional chief conservator of forest, Jamshedpur, had submitted on record that in 2014, UCIL operated the mines even after the expiry of mining lease in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and had directed UCIL to stop all work on forest land. Accordingly, the divisional forest officer, Jamshedpur directed UCIL to stop mining on forest land. The panel noted that mining lease was granted for a period of twenty years between 1997 and 2007 but later, it could not get the lease renewed. UCIL though has claimed that Deparment of Mines and Geology, Jharkhand, has granted mining lease renewal up to 2027. Senior UCIL officials could not be reached for a comment.The expert panel while deferring recommendation for forest clearance has asked the state government to submit a report on violation of lease within two weeks along with present status of forest land in the proposed area.The panel has also asked the state authorities to clarify on the discrepancy in the dates of lease renewal and specify the period of which the mine was operating without a valid lease in violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.In addition to this, the state government has to also examine and submit a detailed report on under what authority UCIL was allowed to carry out the mining operations without approval of the ministry, collection of penal compensatory afforestation and additional net present value.As per UCIL’s website it is currently operating six underground mines in Bagjata, Jaduguda, Bhatin, Narwapahar, Turamdih and Mohuldih and one open pit mine Banduhurang in Jharkhand. Ore from these mines is processed in two plants at Jaduguda and Turamdih. The company is constructing a new underground mine and process plant at Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh and as part of its expansion is setting up new mines and in Karnataka, Telanagana nd Meghalaya.Submit report in 2 weeksThe expert panel while deferring recommendation for forest clearance has asked the state government to submit a report on violation of lease within two weeks along with present status of forest land in the proposed area. The panel has also asked the state authorities to clarify on the discrepancy in the dates of lease renewal and specify the period of which the mine was operating without a valid lease in violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

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