The Supreme Court on Friday ordered immediate suspension of mining and transportation of iron ore from Bellary district in Karnataka, citing "over-exploitation" resulting into large-scale environmental degradation.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia passed the order after taking cognizance of the July 28 report of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which said rampant illegal mining was causing considerable environmental damage in the region.
The panel had recommended forthwith suspension of mining in an area measuring 10,868 hectares in Bellary till further orders.
The order comes barely two days after Karnataka lokayukta justice Santosh Hegde's report highlighting rampant illegal mining in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts.
The court said its April 29 and May 6 orders restraining 19 lease holders from mining and the report of the survey team appointed by it recommending that violators will have to stop work in their entire lease area have to be expanded.
The bench said it will pass orders regarding illegal mining in Tumkur and Chitradurga districts after getting the environment impact assessment reports after three weeks.
It ordered the Ministry of Environment and Forest to submit an interim report within a week indicating the requirement of iron ore for the steel industry in India; how much of the total requirement was met by the Bellary mines; and the quantity internationally exported.
Emphasizing the need to engage only public sector undertakings for mining in Bellary region, it asked Attorney General GE Vahanvati to come out with suggestions within a week after consulting
the departments concerned.
The forest bench had on May 6 set up a joint team comprising representatives of the Forest Department, the Mines and Geology Department of the state government, Karnataka Lokayukta and the CEC.