Supreme Court lifts ban on 45 mines in Bellary
The Supreme Court has allowed 45 iron-ore mines in Karnataka to resume operations. The decision came after the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) found that there was no illegality or only minor ones in their operations. The mines include those of the National Mining Development Corporation (NMDC), Mineral Enterprises Limited and Mysore Minerals Limited, among others.
These mines come under category A. The CEC has divided the iron-ore mining lease under three categories based on the nature of violations of various environmental as well mineral rules. Category A consists of those mines which have not violated any of these rules in the state.
“As far as category A is concerned, the report of the CEC is accepted with a specific clarification that individual rehabilitation and reclamation reports for each mining lease would specify unbroken forest areas. Mining which is to be resumed in appropriate cases falling in category A shall not extend to these unbroken forest areas,” the court noted in its order on April 21. It also directed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to “re-visit” the statutory clearances it had given to these mines “in the light of the rehabilitation and reclamation” plans submitted to the state government.
Meanwhile, former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yedduruppa might face a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe for his high-handed decisions relating to the mining industry. The committee in its report submitted in February has recommended an investigation be carried against the former chief minister. The committee has indicted Yeddyurappa, his two sons Vijayendra and B Y Reghavendra, and son-in-law R N Sohan Kumar for their alleged involvement in the illegal allotment of land to South West Mining Limited—a privately owned company.
The Supreme Court had in July banned mining in Bellary after rampant illegal mining in the area came to light. It also appointed a committee to look into illegal iron-ore mining in Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts of Karnataka.
CEC in its report has also sought outright cancellation of 49 other iron-ore mines. These mines were found involved in illegal mining; they did not obtain environmental or forest clearances. CEC has also identified a third group of 72 leases, where the companies need to pay an “exemplary” compensation of Rs 6 crore per hectare for operating “mining pits” and “burden dumps” outside the sanctioned lease areas under the mining plan. These pits and dumps were 10 or 15 per cent in excess of their commissioned lease area.
The court further allowed the sale of iron ore via e-auction from those stockpiles which falls under category A. “We do not want the economy to suffer, not even the state’s economy,” the court said.