Resumption of operations subject to statutory clearances and implementation of relief and rehabilitation plans
The Supreme Court has allowed 18 mines in Karnataka to resume operations, lifting an 18-month-old ban on iron ore mining. Sixteen of these mines are in Bellary and two in Chitradurga.
The decision came after the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) found that there was no illegality in the operations of the mines. These mines come under category A. CEC has divided the iron-ore mining lease into three categories based on the nature of violations of various environmental as well mining rules. Category A consists of those mines which have not violated any of these rules in the state.
On April 22, the apex court accepted the CEC classification and ordered that mining be allowed in Category A mines, but only when statutory clearances are given and R&R (relief and rehabilitation) plan has been satisfactorily implemented. These mines are to operate keeping in mind the maximum permissible limit for mining in the district, which is 25 million tonnes per annum and then carry out mining accordingly.
The mine lease-wise R&R plans were to be prepared by the Karnataka government which outsourced it to the Indian Council of Forest Research and Education. There are 45 Category A mines but R&R plan has been approved only for 18 for which the court lifted the ban on September 3.
As per a CEC report of August 29 on implementation of R&R plans, only one of the 18 mines has all the statutory clearances and an approved R&R plan while the rest are likely to obtain clearances within a few months. The Association of Indian Mini Blast Furnaces had also approached the apex court with a plea to restore some mining in the area as the industry was suffering due to shortage of raw material.
'Written assurance on R&R sufficient'
The major departure from the April order is the fact that now implementation of the R&R plan on ground is no longer a prerequisite. A mere written statement from the mine lease holder, saying the steps for implementation in the leasehold area are proceeding effectively and meaningfully, is enough. The monitoring committee’s acceptance of such a statement would imply that the condition is being met. CEC has been asked to submit a report within a month after inspection to verify whether the 18 mines are fulfilling the conditions.
S R Hiremath of Dharwad’s NGO Samaj Parivartan Samudaya, which had filed the writ petition leading to the 2011 ban, is somewhat satisfied. “We are pleased that the court has upheld our concerns by asking for all statutory clearances. As far as the R&R plan implementation is concerned, we will keep a hawk’s eye and bring to the notice of CEC any departure thereof.” The member secretary of CEC was not available for comments.
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