A forest bench, headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia, directed the implementation of reclamation and rehabilitation (R&R) plan in all categories of mines to start immediately. It also said that the preparation, implementation and monitoring of R&R would be also under the supervision of CEC.
However, it gave a weeks time to CEC to give suggestions on disposal of stockyards (existing mining stocks), and whether preparatory work connected to blast furnaces in steel plants could be made operational in the category A mines.
The committee had suggested that no new mining leases should be granted in these districts of Karnataka unless rehabilitation plans for the existing leases were executed.
The apex court, had last year, banned iron ore mining in three districts of the state citing environmental concerns and asked the authorities to carry out an environmental impact assessment. However, it had later only allowed state-run NMDC to mine up to one million tonnes per month from its captive mines in the state.
Earlier in its report, the CEC had distinguished mines in the area in three categories as A, B and C depending on the extent of mining in the districts. Whuile mines in which there was least or no irregularities was categorised as A, those with maximum illegalities were marked as C category mines.
The apex court has also accepted a key recommendation on capping the maximum production of iron ore from Bellary and Chitradurga districts at 25 and 5 million tonne, respectively. This was recommended so that ore production could sustain for, at least, 20 years.
The number of working leases in A category mines are 21 and for B category are 29, according to the committee report.