The Supreme Court on Friday banned mining in 157 mines in the Aravalli Ranges, in respect of which applications for renewal of lease have been pending with the Rajasthan government.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices S.H. Kapadia and Aftab Alam also ordered satellite imaging of the Aravalli Ranges spread over a 50,000-km area in 15 districts.

It said the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee on environmental matters and the Rajasthan government would cooperate with the Forest Survey of India in carrying out satellite imaging.

Rs. 5 crore to be allotted

The Bench said the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Advisory Council would provide Rs. 5 crore for the exercise.

Disapproving of subterfuge, the Bench pointed out that under the guise of pending decision on the applications for renewal of the lease, mining was being allowed.

Earlier, senior counsel and amicus curiae Harish Salve asked the court to ban all mining activities in the State. He said the Rajasthan government was trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the court by considering only those mountains which were 100 metres or more in height part of the Aravalli Ranges. It did not treat shorter hills as part of the ranges.

Ecological impact

Another amicus curiae Ranjit Kumar said the court was concerned with the Aravalli Ranges in their entirety and not according to the height of mountains. If mining activity was not stopped immediately, it would lead to devastation, both in terms of its magnitude and impact on ecology, much bigger than what one saw in Haryana.

Appearing for the Rajasthan government, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal said a committee of the State officials had already asked the State Remote Sensing Agency to take up satellite imaging of the Aravalli Ranges.

Loss of jobs cited

Another senior counsel T.R Andhyarujina, also appearing for the State, said closure of the mines would lead to large scale unemployment and loss of revenue by way of royalty.

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