More than a year after the Supreme Court suspended iron-ore mining in Karnataka, the court on Monday partially lifted the ban, but with a rider. The work in 18 mines can be resumed subject to the implementation of restoration and rehabilitation (R&R) plans by the companies concerned.
The special forest bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam passed the order following the apex court appointed Central Empowered Committee's (CEC) recommendation to permit mining to companies included in "Category A" where no illegalities were found. The green signal would open up about 7 million tonnes (MT) per year of production again.
The output from the re-started mines will be in addition to state-run NMDC's 1 million tonne per month, which was cleared by the SC for production from August 6, 2011. The SC's ban order of July 29, 2011, and August 26, 2011, had led to immediate suspension of mining in 166 mines in Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts of Karnataka.
On Karnataka Iron and Steel Manufacturing Association's plea to initiate steps for resuming mining, the SC had sought a report from CEC.
Advocate ADN Rao, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, said: "With the order, one of the companies — M/s Mineral Enterprises — would immediately resume operations. For others, it could take one month to a year for the purpose of getting necessary clearance and vacation of court orders, as some have filed cases before the SC."
A few companies that would resume operations are
M/s VNK Menon, M/s Veerabhadrapha&C, M/s B Kumara Gowda, M/s Mysore Minerals, and M/s Lakshmi Minerals.
The court further clarified the companies resuming operation should possess a valid lease, get forest and environmental clearance from central government and get pollution control certificate from state authorities. In the event of a failure to give an undertaking to CEC or SC, or not abiding by all the conditions, mining would be stopped.