In a major relief to steel and mining industry, the Supreme Court on Thursday increased the cap on the production of iron ore from 30 million tonne per annum to 35 million tonne per annum for the ‘A’ and ‘B’ category mines in Karnataka.
In a major relief to steel and mining industry, the Supreme Court on Thursday increased the cap on the production of iron ore from 30 million tonne per annum to 35 million tonne per annum for the ‘A’ and ‘B’ category mines in Karnataka. At present, around 27-28 million tonne of iron ore is mined in the state. A bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi accepted the recommendations of the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for enhancement of the cap for category A and B mines in the three district of Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga. It said that ground situation, including significant improvements in the infrastructure, had changed and even the “assessment of reserves has changed over the years and today the iron-ore reserves across Karnataka, comprising haematite and magnetite reserves, is to the tune of 10.071 BMT (billion metric tonnes),” thus the solution “has to be realistic.”
The cap was fixed in August 2011 and September 2014 since there was virtually no control or effective regulatory measures as to the maximum output that could be generated by a particular mine, it said. “There was no scientific study of the iron ore reserves allocated to a particular mine in the lease granted. As a result, it was virtually a free for all exercise designed to achieve the maximum profit within the shortest possible timeframe. “There was rampant and illegal mining with encroachments into forest land, particularly for use as overburdened dumps resulting from excessive mining. This had led to environmental and ecological depredation to an extent that necessitated judicial intervention to resolve a situation which is the normal course may have fallen within the executive domain,” the apex court said.
The mines and steel ministry had requested the apex court to raise the cap on iron ore mining in the state from the present 30 million tonnes a year to 40 million tonnes. Even the Federation of Indian Mining Industries and Karnataka Iron and Steel Manufacturers Association (KISMA) had sought an upward revision of the 30 million tonne annual cap on iron ore mining in the state. CEC in its final report in February 2012 had categorised 166 mining leases in Karnataka into three — A, B and C — based on the extent of irregularities committed by the leassees. The CEC brought 51 leases under category C for committing maximum illegalities.
The apex court banned mining of iron ore in Karnataka in July 2011 following allegations of illegal mining that had resulted in large scale abuse of the environment. However, it had on April 18, 2013 allowed mining in the state, but with the cap of 30 million tonnes per annum. It, however, had canceled all 51 leases in Category-C, while reiterating clearance for 18 Category-A mines.