After putting a moratorium on all fresh mining lease applications in the Bellary district of Karnataka in light of the rampant illegal mining there, the Ministry of Environment and Forests now seems set to halt the forest clearance process even for earlier applicants until the State government gets its act together.

JSW Steel, which had been given Stage I clearance in 2008 for the diversion of 200 hectares of forest land to mine iron ore and manganese in Bellary, has found that its final forest clearance is now dependent on the State government's actions.

In a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Wednesday, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that having considered the JSW proposal, he has “decided on the following course of action.”

He goes on to list his demands to the State government: It “should present its concrete plans to put in place a foolproof mechanism to control illegal mining and give a time bound implementation schedule for the same,…submit a list of cases booked against violators and action taken against them,… [and] submit an Action Taken Report on the Lokayukta's report” on illegal mining. Mr. Ramesh then presents his ultimatum — the moratorium on forest clearances “should continue until these concrete actions are taken.”

“I am aware of the various statements you have made to crack down on illegal mining in Karnataka and I am sure that you will support the decision I have taken,” said Mr. Ramesh's letter.

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