New Delhi: Karnataka’s ban on the transport and export of iron ore will be lifted on 20 April after the Supreme Court stayed the government’s orders on Tuesday.
The state government had passed the orders last July, effectively banning the movement of iron ore from the state, in an attempt to curb illegal mining.
The court issued an interim stay order on the ban and listed the case for hearing in the first week of May.
“The court ordered that after 20 April the state government order on the ban will be null and void,” said Ankur Kulkarni, a lawyer for S. B. Minerals, one of the petitioners.
Mining companies in Karnataka including MSPL Ltd, Sesa Goa Ltd, S. B. Minerals and Mineral Enterprises Ltd, moved the high court challenging the constitutional validity of the government’s move.
The high court allowed the ban to continue after the government said it was only a temporary measure for 6 months to prevent illegal mining, storage and transport of ore.
Mining companies then approached the Supreme Court claiming an infringement of their right to livelihood under Article 19(1)(G).
In the meanwhile, the state notified the Karnataka prevention of illegal mining and transportation rules 2011, a new mechanism to prevent illegal mining, a problem plaguing the state for over a decade, particularly in the Bellary-Hospet region.
On the report of justice (retired) Santosh Hegde, the Lokayukta (state vigilance officer) the court said: “The Lokayuta’s report of 18 December 2008 has engaged the attention of the state government” observed the bench comprising justices R. V. Raveendran and A. K. Patnaik, urging the state to implement the recommendations made in the report.
Exporters and miners from the state challenged the ban in Karnataka high court, but lost the case, following which they petitioned the Supreme Court in November.
India is the world’s third largest exporter of iron ore with most of its approximately 100 million tonnes of the commodity landing in China, which has the world’s largest steel industry.
India’s iron ore exports fell 18.6% in February, as the ban on exports by Karnataka continued to cut sales.
Reuters also contributed to this story