No mining in Karnataka till R&R measures are implemented
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said it would not allow resumption of mining activities of iron and ore in Karnataka unless there is a statutory compliance and full implementation of reclamation and rehabilitation measures.
"You don`t press for resumption of mining activities unless we are sure that there is a statutory compliance. No mining activities will resume unless reclamation and rehabilitation (R&R) measures are fully implemented. All statutory compliance should be there," a special forest bench headed by justice Aftab Alam said.
The bench, which accepted all recommendations of August 16 report of the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC), asked the authorities in Karnataka to fully cooperate in the implementation of the suggestions.
The report said there was no need for any order for resumption of mining activities till the recommendations are implemented for which all stake-holders had the meeting early this week.
The Bench granted the CEC two weeks to file a comprehensive report detailing the steps taken for statutory compliance, implementation of R&R measures and the permission needed for the resumption of mining.
The bench, also comprising justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, also asked the CEC to look into the claims of advocate Prashant Bhushan that other serious illegalities and environmental damages have been caused by those operating on category A mines and many of which are in forest area.
Bhushan was appearing for NGO, Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, which has filed PIL against the illegal mining and encroahment of forest areas in the state.
The apex court fixed August 23 to hear arguments on the CEC report of April 27 in which CBI investigation was recommended for theft of iron ore from Belekere port allegedly involving business houses. Meanwhile, the bench issued notices to the CEC and Karnataka Government and sought their response on an application filed by Steel Authority of India (SAIL) seeking permission for operating the captive mines allocated to it.
SAIL`s counsel Ranjit Kumar said the PSU was allocated the captive mines but before the approval was to come, an order was passed by the apex court that no fresh lease would be granted for the mining of iron and ore in the state.
The Supreme Court on April 13 had accepted the CEC recommendations suggesting that no new mining leases should be granted in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka unless rehabilitation plans for the existing leases were executed.
Further the bench had also asked CEC whether work operations in the category `A` mines, where irregularities were the least, could be commenced.
Earlier in its report the CEC had distinguished mines in the area in three categories as A, B and C.
The mines in which there was least or no irregularities was categorised as `A` and those with maximum illegalities as `C` category.
The bench was hearing the application filed by Karnataka Iron and Steel Manufacturing Association seeking direction for taking immediate steps for opening of 16 iron and ore mines in which the apex court appointed expert panel, central empowered committee (CEC), had found minimum irregularities.
During the last hearing National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) counsel Arvind Datar had said there was no difficulty in production of the minerals but the area of concern was the shortage of rakes for its transportation and absence of long time contract was coming in the way of extracting large-scale iron and ore.
He said long term e-auction will help in solving the contract for extraction of the mineral.
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