Hemant Soren sent a letter on November 17 to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) challenging its claims in an alleged mining scam in the state weeks before Hemant Soren sent the letter. In the meantime, the probe agency sent a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) about how huge this scam was.
After investigating the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) case, ED pegged the financial loss due to alleged illegal and unrecorded stone chip transportation at Rs 1,350 crore in a letter to MoEF Secretary Leena Nanda.
As part of the investigation, the ED told the MoEF Secretary that 1,350 railway rakes were used to transport the illegally mined stone chips between Pirpainti in Bihar and Barharwa and Sahibganj in Jharkhand.
Soren challenged the claims of the ED on the day he was to be questioned, saying that to recover Rs 1,000 crore in mining royalties, eight crore tons of stone chips would have to be ferried from Sahibganj in trucks and rakes. The agency’s claims had been described as “sensational”.
ED elaborated in its communication to the Ministry about Jharkhand’s “irreversible environmental damage” caused by illegal quarrying.
According to the ED, 19 mining sites have been inspected by officials from a host of government departments, and reports have been provided to the ministry. Additionally, satellite imagery of different sites showing extensive illegal mining was attached to the communication.
On the environment damage, the ED stated that the joint inspection confirmed that there was huge illegal mining and degrading of land and forests, leading to soil erosion, soil runoff, infertility of the land, water logging, flattening of hills, etc.
The report also warned the Ministry that illegal mining was not just happening in Sahibganj but all over the state. It gave the Ministry the details and numbers of the seized stone crushers, trucks, and inland vessels.
Jharkhand Police filed as many as 125 FIRs for illegal mining, according to the ED’s chargesheet on March 8. Once the ED seized the case, it seized cash worth Rs 5.34 crore, bank balances worth Rs 13.32 crore, and took over the transporters and equipment.
There’s a station-by-station list of railway rakes in which stone chips were transported without challans in the ED chargesheet.