The row over declaration of 17,872.248 hectares of area within the Kappatagudda reserve forest in Gadag district as ‘Kappatagudda conservation reserve’ has now reached the High Court of Karnataka.
Ramgad Minerals and Mining Ltd., Hosapete, which had secured prospecting mining lease for gold mining in the reserve forest, has filed a petition questioning inclusion of around 800 hectares of forest land in the “conservation reserve” as it has impacted its mining area.
Tontadarya mutt seer Siddalinga Swami, NGO Samaj Parivartan Samuday and ex-wildlife warden Santhosh Martin have filed their applications to participate in the proceedings initiated based on the company’s petition. The seer and others have opposed the company’s plea for exclusion of its mining lease area from the “conservation reserve”.
The mining company has challenged the April 11, 2017 notification declaring 17,872.248 hectares of Kappatagudda reserve forest as a “conservation zone” under the Wildlife Protection Act, while contending that such an action was illegal as the declaration was made without considering the company’s plea for protecting its mining rights granted several years ago.
It was pointed out in the company’s plea that the State government, with the prior approval of the Union government, in April 2001 granted reconnaissance permit to the company for gold and associated minerals. The company, after successfully carrying out reconnaissance and prospecting operations, made applications for prospecting licence, and the State government granted prospecting licences in 2008–09. Following this, the company began work on setting up processing unit with a huge expenditure, and in May 2012, it submitted an application for grant of mining licence for gold in certain areas covered under the prospecting licence.
However, the company stated in the petition, that the State government, in February 2013, made a public proposal for declaring the Kappatagudda forest area as a “wildlife sanctuary” but later changed it to a “conservation zone” based on the recommendation of the Wildlife Board.
A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee and Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar, adjourned further hearing on the petition by two weeks while agreeing to hear the contentions of the seer and others.