Lifts embargo on grant of fresh leases

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-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.

On September 3, 2012 the apex court had partially lifted its ban on mining operations in Karnataka, ordered more than a year ago, and gave the green signal for extraction of iron ore on 18 leases in category A mines, subject to certain conditions being fulfilled. The Bench had accepted the report of the CEC, which had said that 18 leases be allowed to carry on their business in the three districts as they had not violated any rules. — 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.

The order also stated that the operations of the seven mines along the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border would remain suspended till the inter-State boundary dispute is finalised, at which time the issue would be reassessed by the CEC.