Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma said the issue of illegal mining “should not be confused with export of iron ore.”

Speaking to media persons after a visit to Infosys Technology’s campus in the city, Mr. Sharma said annual Indian iron ore output is about 230-235 million tonnes, of which domestic consumption is only about 85-90 million tonnes. The “exportable surplus” of about 130 million tonnes cannot be kept in the country, he said.

Indian iron ore exports, Mr. Sharma said, are mainly fines, not lumps, which is used by the domestic steel industry. The mining industry contributes “substantially to the country, particularly in terms of employment.” Referring to the Karnataka Government’s move to ban iron ore exports, Mr. Sharma warned that such a move might result in “unemployment and social tensions.”

“It would be better for the Karnataka Government and Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa not to confuse the issue.” “The State Government should take steps to check illegal mining, which is the core issue,” he added.

“Legal and illegal mining are two different issues,” he remarked. “After allowing illegal mining, stopping the movement of ore from the minor ports is not going to help,” he said.

“It is not fair that those who have followed the rules should be punished along with those who have committed illegalities,” Mr. Sharma said.

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