Central Empowered Committee has recommended cancellation of 49 leases

The Karnataka Government has requested the Supreme Court to revoke the suspension of 117 mining leases listed under categories A and B by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC).

The Supreme Court-appointed CEC has recommended cancellation of 49 mining leases listed under Category C, where iron ore was being mined illegally. It has recommended resumption of operations in 45 mining leases listed under Category A, subject to fulfilment of stipulated conditions. It has also recommended that mining be allowed in 72 leases listed under Category B, after asking the concerned leases to comply with prerequisites, including payment of penalty.

Chief Secretary to the State Government S.V. Ranganath in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on February 8 stated that the CEC had cleared a few mines “where no significant illegality or irregularity has been noticed. These mines may kindly be allowed to operate without hindrance”.

The affidavit said that there were some other mines which had been enumerated as Category B “for reasons of some or other kind of illegality or irregularity noticed by the CEC” and these mines too could be allowed to operate. “The State Government would undertake to ensure all material safeguards in place and due diligence is exercised by all agencies as directed by the court,” the affidavit said.

With regard to leases under Category C, where large-scale serious and irreversible illegalities or irregularities have been noticed by the CEC, the Government would take “whatever action as directed by the court”, the affidavit said.

In Western Ghats

In its affidavit, the Government took exception to the recommendation of the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) to the Supreme Court on permitting mining in the Western Ghats. The Government has expressed its opposition to mining in the Western Ghats.

The ICFRE in its report indirectly suggested that mining of iron ore be permitted in the Western Ghats by using advanced underground mining technology in an “environment friendly” manner. However, the CEC in its report rejected the suggestion by noting that “the ICFRE has gone totally out of context and beyond its terms of reference.”

Noting that the ICFRE recommendation to exploit large-scale deposits of magnetite ore in the Western Ghats through closed underground mining operations adopting latest and advanced technology “may not be a viable proposition”, the affidavit said that the State Government was obliged to conserve the mineral for posterity, keeping in mind the principle of “inter-generational equity” and in the light of likely danger to be caused to ecology. Western Ghats have been now considered as a unique “eco-sensitive biosphere and it is being considered for the World Heritage Site tag”, the affidavit said.

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