New Delhi: A Supreme Court-appointed committee has recommended a severe crackdown on illegal mining in Karnataka, including cancellation of mining leases.
The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) also indicted the Karnataka government after it found complicity by administration officials in the rampant illegal mining that has also caused ecological damage in the Bellary-Sandur-Hospet region of Karnataka. The 852-page report was submitted by CEC to the apex court on Friday.
The case will be heard by the Supreme Court’s forest bench on Thursday, where amicus Harish Salve, who is being assisted by CEC, will make a plea for an interim order from the apex court.
The report claimed that the decade-old problem of illegal mining of iron ore and manganese would probably exhaust mineral reserves in the region within 20 years.
Of Karnataka’s 266 iron ore mines, more than half—134— are located in forest areas, while the remaining—132—are in non-forest areas, covering a total of 11,604 hectares of forest land, according to CEC.
The Karnataka government spokesperson was not immediately reachable for comment.
Chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa had admitted on the floor of the Karnataka assembly in August that more than 30 million tonnes of iron ore had been exported from the state without permits from 2003.
Of this, 700,000 tonnes was illegally exported in 2009-10, causing a loss of Rs 15,245 crore to the exchequer, CEC said in its report.
“A decision regarding maximum quantity of iron ore that should be permitted to be extracted should be taken and thereafter production of individual mines should be regulated,” the report said.
The CEC report asks for the revocation of mining leases and environmental clearances granted to the indicted mining companies.
There is also a recommendation for a joint committee to be formed to properly demarcate the extent of mining leases and a suspension of all mining activity till this demarcation is over.
The report also makes many references to the questionable role played by “a senior political leader of the state”.
In January, CEC recommended to the Supreme Court the cancellation of six iron ore mining leases in the Bellary reserve forest of Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district, including three owned by Karnataka minister and Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker Gali Janardhan Reddy and his brothers through the Obulapuram Mining Co. Pvt. Ltd.
A serious cause for concern has been raised by CEC as it observed that in nine years of fact-finding on illegal mining in states such as Orissa, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the problem in Karnataka was the worst.
“All these cases pale into insignificance when compared to the illegal mining on the colossal scale that has taken place” in Karnataka, particularly in Bellary, “that too with the active connivance of the concerned departments and also the public representatives”, the report said.
A 2008 report by retired Supreme Court judge and now Karnataka Lokayukta (state vigilance officer) Santosh Hedge also painted a very grim image of the nature of mining in the state, and indicted several companies, politicians and public officials.
Friday’s CEC report observed that none of Hegde’s recommendations had been acted upon.
“Hardly any perceptible follow-up action and corrective measures were taken on the findings of the Lokayukta,” the report said.
Lakshminarayana Mining Co., Ramgad Mining Corp. Ltd, Trident Minerals, SB Minerals, Munir Minerals, Adarsh Enterprises, J.M. Enterprises and Veeyam Minerals are some of the companies that CEC recommends should be acted upon for irregularities and illegal mining.