SC directs KIOCL to shut mining operations
the Supreme Court (sc) once again directed Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd (kiocl) to shut down all mining activities by December 31, 2005. This is a major triumph for environmentalists who have been working for years to protect the fragile hill ecology of Kudremukh in the Western Ghats in Karnataka. The apex court took this tough stand against the iron ore major on September 30, 2005, while reacting to a request of the company for a delayed closure. The court now insists on a closure before any further hearing.
In the meantime, the company has prepared a closure plan, which, incidentally, calls for further mining by targeting 54 hectares of virgin area in the Kudremukh national reserve. kiocl claims this is the only way slope stability in the region can be ensured. Interestingly, the Indian Bureau of Mines has also approved this plan and has submitted it to the Union ministry of environment and forest. However, environmentalists are not convinced. The company's plea for an early hearing on the need to ensure slope stability and the social factors involved in stopping operations has not helped. The original sc decision was taken three years ago, on October 30, 2002, when a three-judge bench of the sc comprising the then Chief Justice B N Kirpal, justices Y K Sabharwal and Arijit Pasayat, ordered all mining operations to cease. They stuck to the order, saying the company has to stop operations by December 2005.
The company was given a mining lease for 30 years in 1969. Further Kudremukh's biodiversity wealth had almost earned it a national park notification in 1987. So, for all reasons, environmentalists were all set to see the Kudremukh hills free from any pollution. But in 1999, even when the lease expired, mining continued. Displeased, K M Chinnappa, a retired forest officer and trustee of the non-governmental organisation Wildlife First, filed an interlocutory application with the sc in 2001. This was in the Godavarman Thirumalpad vs Union of India case. Chinnappa appealed for the mines to be closed and the leased areas to be included in the national park.
The company fought the case in the apex court for almost two years. But the petitioners produced evidence establishing lasting damage not only to environment of the Kudremukh region, but also to the Bhadra river and reservoirs and to agricultural land downstream.
The company, given a mini-ratna stature, has the largest mining and pelletisation complex in the country and has a turover above Rs 1,800 crore. Lawyers like Kapil Sibal (currently minister of science and technology) and K K Venugopal have at different times represented the company.
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