J. Venkatesan

Union Ministry asked State not to permit mining until after leasing areas were demarcated

This exercise is required to ascertain ore extraction by violation

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered status quo on an Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment setting aside a government order restraining the Reddy brothers from conducting mining in Obulapuram.

A Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.M. Lodha and B.S. Chauhan fixed the next hearing for March 22, after Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the State, pleaded for early listing.

By a November 25, 2009 order, the Industries and Commerce Department restrained the Obulapuram Mining Company, Bellary Iron Ore Pvt. Ltd., Mahabaleswarappa and Sons and the Anantapur Mining Corporation from carrying out any mining activity involving extraction of iron ore in the district. The High Court on February 26 struck down the GO.

In its special leave petition against this ruling and seeking an interim stay, the State said it passed the GO after considering facts and the recommendations of the Central Empowered Committee. On November 30 last, the Union Environment and Forests Ministry conveyed to the State government that no mining be permitted until demarcation of the leasing areas was completed. On December 1, the government recommended a CBI probe into the allegations of illegal mining and encroachments on the Bellary reserve forest area in Anantapur district.

The SLP said the High Court had erred in seeking to legitimise mining operations within 40 metres of the boundaries from the neighbouring States. For, the State was required to demarcate the boundaries of the existing leases so as to arrive at a conclusion on the extent of area involved in the boundary dispute, transgression of the boundaries and ore extraction by violation of the demarcated areas.