Why are steel manufacturers more keen than miners? SC

The Supreme Court on Friday wondered why steel manufacturers were seeking resumption of mining operations, not mine lease holders.

New Delhi: In an obvious reference to the alleged nexus between steel manufacturers and iron ore miners, the Supreme Court on Friday wondered why steel manufacturers were seeking resumption of mining operations, not mine lease holders.

The forest bench of the apex court, comprising Justice Aftab Alam, Justice KS Radhakrishanan and Justice Swatanter Kumar, said: "Their (iron ore mine lease holders) production is zero. Their earning is zero. Why are they not coming? They are under ban for months."

"I am deeply worried about the underlined dynamic," Justice Alam said, as senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for steel manufacturers, pleaded for the resumption of mining operations in the mines that have the statutory clearances.

The court`s concern was expressed even as it asked the Karnataka government to decide on all applications pending before it, seeking the renewal of mining leases, within one month.

However, amicus curiae Shyam Divan told the court that statutory environmental clearances for B-category mines would not be in place before July next year.

Another senior counsel, Chander Uday Singh, who too appeared for steel manufacturers, said mining lease holders too would approach the court, but by that time, the others who were present at the court might all be dead.

Urging the court to permit mining in B-category mines upon the presentation of an undertaking, Chander Uday Singh contended that the ban on mining was hurting steel manufacturers and their consumers.

"It is the manufacturers (of steel) and the consumers who are going to ultimately suffer", Singh said, wondering: "What happens to the people who are not party to this (case) - steel manufacturers and steel consumers?"

"Don`t throw figures at us. What does it mean," Justice Alam said at one point in the course of the hearing, saying: "We also need the living environment."

Justice Alam`s reprimand came as Singh told the court how the closure of each of the blast furnaces was costing the industry crores of rupees.

Singh said the steel industry was already operating at one-third of its installed capacity; even that could end.

On a query about environmental clearances to B-category mines, Shyam Divan told the court that such clearances would not come before July next year.

"It is a time-consuming exercise. Any time-bound clearance involves huge compromise on conditions and qualities," the amicus curiae told the court.

Divan emphasised that forest clearance was not a matter that could be rushed through.

Senior counsel Singh said that the matter pertained not to fresh clearances from the forest department, but "it was just a revival of earlier forest clearances and de novo forest clearances."

Meanwhile, the court has asked both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to file their responses to the demarcation of their boundaries by the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee.

The court order came after it was asked to affix the stamp of its approval on the demarcated boundaries.

While asking both the states to file their responses, the court asked if it could authenticate the demarcation of boundaries in this fashion.

The court observed that if either of the states disagreed with the demarcation, a boundary dispute would result and the court would be called upon to adjudicate the dispute, the judges said.