Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh wants Karnataka Lokayukta to inspect files pertaining to mining in Bellary, Karnataka, as part of its ongoing investigation, after the Karnataka government said a company was allowed mining despite the state government objections.
Following a report on Hindustan Times on March 24, Ramesh wrote to Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyarappa saying the entire file pertaining to Ramgarh Mines and Minerals Limited, which got the ministry’s approval in September 2010, was available for inspection by the Lokayukta or any other agency designated by the state government.
The ministry’s forest division had approved final diversion of forestland for the company even though the state government claimed that it had failed to comply with the ministry’s earlier in principle approval.
“I wish to reiterate clearly, categorically and unequivocally that no undue favour has been shown to the company,” Ramesh said in the letter, while stating that adequate conditions have been stipulated in the approval to ally apprehensions of the state government. The conditions include meeting the requirements of Forest Rights Act and proper demarcation of lease area.
Hitting back at the Karnataka government, Ramesh said the company had made several representations to the ministry accusing the state government of harassing them.
The representations was considered by the ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee in May 2010, which said that the areas leased to the company was being illegally mined by three other companies, in which the two state government ministers have a stake. These companies have got mining sub-contract from Obalapuram Mining Company, which the ministry’s regional office confirmed after an investigation.
The FAC asked the state government to demarcate the mining area to prevent encroachments. Ramesh also wrote to the Chief Minister last year in this regard but the state government had not acted.
The ministry have, however, reject the state government’s demand to cancel the final approval for mining stating that as per Forest Conservation Act provisions, any appeal against the approval has to be made within a month. The approval was granted in September 2010 and Karnataka government objected to it in March 2011.