The Supreme Court on Thursday cancelled 49 leases in mines with maximum illegalities in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts, but allowed resumption of activity in mines with fewer illegalities as recommended by the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC).

The CEC had categorised mines in the area in three categories: A, B and C. Mines in which there were few or no irregularities were categorised as A and those with maximum illegalities were placed in category C. The apex court, while accepting a majority of the recommendations made by the CEC since July 2011 on the mining issues in Karnataka, also said that iron-ore mining on the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border would remain suspended till the demarcation of the boundary between the two States was completed.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Ranjan Gogoi passed the order on a plea by the NGO Samaj Parivartan Samudaya (SPS), which had alleged that large-scale irregularities and illegalities were being committed by various private mining firms holding licences to mine in the three districts, as well as State-owned Mysore Minerals Ltd. (MML).

The illegalities referred to included illegal mining, allotment of huge quantities of iron ore at throwaway prices to private companies and an increase in rates at which iron ore was supplied to some other companies. — PTI

Fresh leases

Bangalore Bureau adds:

Significantly, the court lifted the “embargo” on the grant of fresh mining leases in the State. Observing that the proceeds of the sales made by category C mines would be “forfeited to the State,” the court said fresh leases for these mines could be now issued, as per the CEC’s recommendations.

S.R. Hiremath of the SPS said the court had clearly stated in an earlier ruling (September 28, 2012) that category B mines would be required to compensate for the losses caused to the exchequer, apart from paying a fine of Rs. 6.50 crore per hectare for pits and dumps created outside the permitted area.

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