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Somanna in the dock as sons face illegal mining charge

Special Correspondent

Lokayukta investigating mining firm of Minister's sons

BANGALORE: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government in the State that claimed to have taken steps to curb illegal mining in its affidavit filed recently before the Supreme Court is now facing allegations of not acting against Matha Minerals, said to be owned partly by the sons of Minister for Housing V. Somanna, which is allegedly involved in illegal mining.

While Department of Mines and Geology has submitted a report on the alleged illegal encroachment and mining by Matha Minerals to the Government, officials concerned are facing the charge of protecting the interests of the company by imposing a penalty of Rs. 16.35 lakh. The company is yet to respond to the notice issued by the department.

The issue of illegal mining in the State, which was hitherto restricted to Ministers from Bellary, has now extended to Mr. Somanna, as his sons, B.S. Naveen and B.S. Arun, are said to be partners in Matha Minerals (Mining License 2600), which is facing the charge of encroachment and illegal mining in Gubbi taluk of Tumkur district.

The Lokayukta has begun an inquiry into the allegations of illegal mining against the company. A team, headed by U.V. Singh, is looking into it. According to documents made available to The Hindu, Amar Singh obtained licence to mine iron ore and manganese in Kondli and Mudlapalya villages in Gubbi taluk in 1985. The mining lease was transferred to Matha Minierals in 2003. Dr. Naveen, Dr. Arun, B.S. Manjunath, C.R. Somashekar and P. Gangappa are partners of Matha Minerals. The lease period ended in May 6, 2005 and it was renewed for 20 years on April 4, 2009.

B.R. Vijayakumari, wife of Mr. Amar Singh, filed a petition with Mines Tribunal and the tribunal directed the State Government to review the transfer of mining lease, besides inquiring into encroachment and regularisation of the mining area. Sources in the Government disclosed that the inquiry was on in both the cases.

The mining lease granted to Matha Minerals for mining in the border areas of Kondli and Mudalapalya villages of Gubbi taluk was surveyed and inspected by the Deputy Director, Department of Land Records, officials of the Forest Department and Mines and Geology on August 2 and 3 of 2010.

The notice issued to Matha Minerals by the Deputy Director of Mines and Geology says that during the survey it was found that the company has not maintained the border stones and lines and violated Mining Concession Rules and also trespassed onto government land adjacent to the leased area and was carrying out mining illegally. It confirmed that the company was dumping solid waste in the encroached area and had violated norms.

It was also found that the company specifically violated the rules and regulations under Section 41 (1) 21 of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. The notice also said that the company had trespassed onto and was carrying out mining in 37.30 acres of land and in view of that a penalty had been imposed. The company was asked to pay royalty of Rs. 62,922 for illegally mining 6.29 lakh tonnes of ore.

The company was asked to clear the solid waste dumped beyond the leased area and directed against carrying out mining beyond the leased mining area. The lessee had been asked to pay Rs. 16.35 lakh within 30 days of receipt of notice and directed to install concrete pillars to identify border stones, besides intermediate stones as per the plan sanctioned during the joint survey. However, according to officials, the company had not responded so far.

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