The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a batch of petitions, including one by the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries, seeking to review its own 2013 verdict where it had scrapped 51 iron ore mines in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka due to gross irregularities.
While rejecting a batch of 39 review petitions filed by various Category C mining companies, the bench of the apex court led by justice Ranjan Gogoi said that it found “no compelling reasons” to review its April 18, 2013 that allowed some mines to resume functioning, while cancelling the leases of several others.
The petitions had sought a review on four grounds — a survey conducted by a central empowered committee (CEC) impacted individual cases; there was violation of the principle of natural justice; the apex court exceeded powers under Article 32; and there was no objective assessment of the mines, and the SC, while cancelling their licences, took upon itself the powers of legislature.
The CEC in its January report had recommended the grant of approval to the Karnataka government’s proposed scheme of e-auction and re-allotment of 51 cancelled mines in Category C.
In April 2013, the apex court had scrapped mining in 51 mines where the highest amount of irregularities were found. These mines were categorised as Category C mines. Category A and B iron ore mines, with no or lesser degree of irregularities, were allowed to resume mining subject to reclamation, rehabilitation and compensation payments.
The apex court will now on Thursday hear another batch of petitions seeking the review of several aspects of its April 18, 2013 order, by which Category A and B mines were allowed to resume mining with a cap of 30 mtpa. It had banned the mining of iron ore in Karnataka in July 2011, following allegations of illegal mining that had resulted in the largescale abuse of the environment. Subsequently, the court ordered a resumption in mining activities in Karnataka in April 2013 with a cap on production of 30 mtpa after July 2011.
Of the 108 mines asked to be reopened by the apex court, 45 fall under Category A mines that had non-working leases with marginal illegality, 63 fall under Category B mines having some level of illegality with 10% of the mining pits outside the lease area. Forty-nine were declared as Category C mines, where gross violations were conducted and thus are ineligible for mining activity. 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.