New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday allowed
state enterprise NMDC to operate its two mines for production
of iron ore in Karnataka`s Bellary district.
"We are of the view that under the extraordinary
circumstances, NMDC be allowed to operate these mines (two
mines) to extend the production of iron ore to the tune of one
million tonnes per month from tomorrow onwards," a special
forest bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia said.
The bench kept private mine owners out of the mining
activities and made it clear that no part of the iron ore
extracted by the NMDC will be exported.
The bench also made it clear that the Karnataka
government will levy royalty at a rate of 10 per cent of the
current market value of the iron ore.
It also directed that a macro-level environment impact
assessment (EIA) to be undertaken by Indian Council of
Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) in collaboration with
Wildlife Institute of India, Forest Survey of India and other
such expert organisations in the field of forestry as decided
by ICFRE in consultation with Ministry of Environment and
The EIA report has to be submitted within three months.
The bench also directed the Karnataka government to
furnish within three months the reclamation and rehabilitation
plan of Bellary district.
While passing the interim order, the court said, "It was
observing the mandate of Article 21 of the Constitution for
precautionary principle and internal generational equity."
On July 29, the apex court had ordered suspension of
mining and transportation of iron ore from Bellary district of
the state saying "over-exploitation" of the area has caused
large-scale environmental degradation.
The apex court had passed the order by taking note of the
latest 23-page report of its expert panel, Central Empowered
Committee (CEC), which said most of the miners in the region
were indulging in illegal mining causing considerable
The bench had said that "holistic" view was required in
view of the July 28 report of the CEC which indicated that
mining of iron ore in the Bellary-Hospet forest region of
Karnataka, was going on "without sufficient infrastructure".
The court`s order had come after Karnataka Lokayukta
Justice Santosh Hegde, a retired apex court judge, brought out
a detailed report on rampant illegal mining in the districts
of Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga and its adverse impact on
the environment and the people of these areas.
Besides Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, the report had
indicted mining barons and ministers, the Reddy brothers,
companies and officials for the illegal mining that has led to
a political storm and the ouster of the chief minister.
The court had said it would also pass orders relating to
the two other districts, Tumkur and Chitradurga, the hot-bed
of illegal mining, after getting the environment impact
It had also directed the CEC to submit its report on EIA
on account of of mining in Tumkur and Chitradurga districts
within three weeks.
Earlier on May 6, the bench had ordered forming of the
joint team of representatives of the Forest Department and the
Mines and Geology Department of the state government besides
those of Karnataka Lokayukta and the court-appointed CEC.
As per the mandate, the team was to conduct a survey and
demarcation of leased mines in the presence of representatives
of the mining firms and if any encroachment was found, the
mining in the entire leased area would stop.
The apex court had directed the joint team to visit the
site of all the 99 mines to carry out the demarcation.
The team had earlier recommended a halt to mining
operations of SB Minerals owned by Hospet MLA Anand Singh,
Tungabhadra Minerals, BMS Mining Company, Nidhi Minerals, B R
Yogendranath Mining Company, Jeenath Minerals, KLD Mining
Company and Lakshmi Minerals among others.
It had, however, given a go-ahead to Allam Prashanth
Mines Company, Tiffan Beretis Mining Company and Nadim
There are 148 iron ore mining leases sanctioned in
Bellary district, out of which 124 are existing. The team has
submitted a report regarding 60 mines, out of which 45 are
involved in "substantial illegal mining".