SC lifts ban on 18 iron ore mines in Karnataka

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 4 2012, 09:34am hrs
The Supreme Court on Monday allowed 18 iron ore mine leaseholders to resume mining in Karnataka after a ban of more than a year on environment concerns. The 18 mines together produce 7 million metric tonne of iron ore a year. Prior to the ban, India the third-largest exporter in the world used to produce about 200 million tonne a year of iron ore and exported about half of that.

A special forest bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam said the lifting of the ban would only be effective in 18 category A mines, subject to their compliance with statutory clearances. The mines having least or no irregularities were categorised as 'A' and those with maximum illegalities were put in the 'C' category by the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee.

Mining operations will commence only after the monitoring committee gives a clearance to the mine owners. The output from the re-started mines will be in addition to state-run NMDC's one million tonne per month, which was cleared by the Supreme Court for production in August last year.

JSW Steel., one of India's largest steelmakers, is likely to gain from Monday's order as it procured ore mainly from Karnataka.

Mining in the Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga region of Karnataka was banned after a probe found serious environmental violations. The court subsequently allowed state-run NMDC to extract as much as one million tonne of ore a month and ordered all sales to be made through online auctions.

It is a positive order ... other category mines will also start opening slowly, Federation of Indian Mineral Industries secretary-general RK Sharma said, adding that he didn't expect exports to resume at all now because domestic consumption stands at 30 million tonne.

The order came on a petition filed by a social activist group Samaj Parivartan Samuday which had alleged that rampant illegal mining had damaged the environment.

The Karnataka Iron and Steel Manufacturing Association had also sought immediate steps for opening of 16 iron and ore mines in which the CEC had found minimum irregularities.