New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Karnataka government to either notify within two weeks the new law against illegal mining or lift its order banning transportation of iron ore meant for export, saying that the ban cannot be sustained indefinitely.
Earlier, the Karnataka government had banned transportation of iron ore for export purposes for six months pending a legislation to curb illegal mining.
A bench of justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik told the state government that if it fails to notify the proposed Karnataka Prevention of Illegal Mining, Storage and Transportation Rules, 2010, it will have to make special arrangements to allow the mining firms to export the ore.
"Ban cannot be forever. You can stop illegal mining but the ban cannot stay forever," said the bench.
Observing that the ban was temporary in the nature, imposed only for six months originally, the bench asked the government not to extend it beyond January.
"If there is delay, the state government may formulate necessary regulatory measures for regulating, supervising and monitoring exports," the bench said.
The apex court`s direction came during hearing of a bunch of petitions by mining firms, Sesa Goa, MSPL and S B Minerals, challenging state`s order banning transportation of iron ores for exports from within its territory.
During the proceeding, Karnataka government said the state was waiting for Lokayukta`s final report on evolving ways and means to curb large scale irregularities by various miners. The report was expected in March this year, they added.
They said the ban was for "complete overhaul" of the system in the state by putting a complete new regulatory mechanism.
Opposing miners` plea to allow their stocks of iron ore piled up in docks and warehouses awaiting export, the state government said these might have been mined illegally.
The bench, however, queried: "If some one has cold, will you cut the nose?"
Opposing the ban order, miners said it was totally unjustified and must not be extended.
They contended that there was no need to wait for the Lokayukta`s final report as he has already met the mining department officials and advised them to take various steps to prevent illegal mining.
At this, the bench said, "We do not want to enter into arguments at this stage. We would give the state government 10-15 days, if it does not permit, then we will ask them to permit exports under some conditions."
The apex court adjourned the matter for hearing in the first week of February.
The mining firms have challenged the state government`s July 28 order, imposing a ban on the issuance of mineral dispatch permits for transporting iron ore for exports.