Taking a tough stand on the “looting” of the State's mineral wealth, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Thursday said he would relinquish his post if he failed to end to illegal mining.

He also declared that he was ready to order any kind of inquiry into illegal mining.

Replying to H.C. Neeravari (JD-S) during Question Hour in the Legislative Council, Mr. Yeddyurappa also offered to take an all-party delegation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to convince him about the need to take steps to prevent the export of iron ore. “I am ready to put off the ongoing legislature session for three days if you agree to accompany me to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister,” he told the Opposition.

The Opposition leaders expressed their willingness to be part of the delegation.

“You give me information on any illegal mining activity. I will take steps to prevent it. I will give up my post if I am unable to do so. The Chief Minister's chair and power are not important to me. What is important is to put an end to illegal mining,” Mr. Yeddyurappa said.

He said the State filed an affidavit in the Karnataka High Court on June 23 stating that the export licences of 10 erring mining companies should be suspended till it was found that they were not guilty. The affidavit had been filed by Karwar Deputy Conservator of Forests R. Gokul. He said the Government had ordered a comprehensive inquiry into how seized iron ore was illegally exported from the Belekeri port.

Mr. Yeddyurappa said four companies had illegally transported 8.05 lakh tonnes of ore worth Rs. 241.79 crore. Of the four, the shipping licences of Mallikarjun Shipping Private Ltd. and Adani Enterprises had been suspended while Salagaonkar Mining Industries Ltd. had submitted an indemnity bond.

The Opposition hailed Mr. Yeddyurappa's reply and remarked that he had overcome his “helplessness”.

Award for Gokul?

Denying allegations that the Government had yielded to the mining lobby by suspending Mr. Gokul for seizing iron ore, Mr. Yeddyurappa said the Government was considering honouring the official with an award. “We have given him a free hand,” he claimed.