In a significant development, the State government has issued a notification cancelling 51 iron ore mining leases under category C to abide by a Supreme Court directive.
According to Principal Secretary, Department of Commerce and Industries, Tushar Girinath, the notification was issued on Friday and the lease areas of all the 51 category C mines are now under the control of the government.
The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC), in its final report on February 3, 2012, had categorised 166 mining leases in Karnataka in three categories — A, B and C — based on the extent of illegalities committed by the lessees.
It had classified 45 mining leases under category A, 72 under category B and 49 under category C. Subsequently, the court had ordered shifting two more mines from category B to category C.
Following the CEC’s report, the Supreme Court on April 18, 2013, ordered cancellation of all the 51 leases with maximum illegalities in the districts of Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga.
Leases where illegal mining by way of mining pits outside the sanctioned lease areas have been found to be 10 to 15 per cent of the lease area are classified under category C.
Prominent among the companies whose leases have been cancelled under the category are: VSL Mining Company of Minister for Information Santosh Lad and MLA Anil Lad, S.B. Minerals of the former Tourism Minister Anand Singh, Associated Mining Company of the former Minister G. Janardhan Reddy, Hotur Traders of Ambika Ghorpade and Yogendranath Singh, Matha Mining Company in which kin of the former Minister V. Somanna have shares, Bharat Mines and Minerals, Latha Mining Company, Deccan Mining Syndicate and Trident Minerals.
According to sources in the Department of Mines, prior to the ban on mining in the State, these leases accounted for about 15 million tonnes of iron ore production.
The apex court had also ordered re-allotment of category C mines to steel mills for captive consumption through a transparent process. The State government has constituted a committee to finalise the modalities of re-allotting these 51 mining leases.
The ruling Congress was facing criticism for not acting on illegal mining, an issue it had opposed when the party was in the Opposition. The then Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Siddaramaiah had led the 320-km walkathon from Bangalore to Bellary seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into illegal mining.