SC allows iron ore mining in Bellary by NDMC



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 Forest.

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 environmental damage.

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 assessment.

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 Minerals.

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".

PTI