New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday rejected an application from the Karnataka government on allowing mining of minerals other than iron ore in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts.
The court had in July imposed a ban on mining and transportation of iron ore in these districts on ecological grounds and to curtail rampant illegal mining.
Since iron ore is the principle natural resource extracted from the region, all mining activity ceased as a result.
Court ruling: A deserted iron ore mine in Karnataka.(Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)
Karnataka counsel Anitha Shenoy made a plea to the court’s forest bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, asking that mining be permitted in 55 lease areas to extract limestone, green quartz, pink quartz, white quartz, soap quartz, clay and dolomite.
“None of the above mining lease holders have been issued with any show cause notice for any of the violations” under the mining laws and rules, the government said in its application to the court.
Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati said the court needn’t issue any clarification on its earlier order as “the areas have already been demarcated” for the ban on mining.
The court also did not deal with the issue of pricing of iron ore, raised by state-run NMDC Ltd on concerns of demand dropping in the local market.
“We see no reason to interfere with the floor price mechanism adopted by NMDC. We leave it to Central Empowered Committee and NMDC to revise floor price depending on economic variables,” ordered the court.
The court also enquired: “We wanted to know if the demand is not there because of the upset price. Are they importing from some international market (because the domestic prices have shot up)?”
The Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education, tasked with investigating the ecological and social damage to the Bellary-Hospet region, said it will submit its initial report on 15 January, ahead of the next hearing 20 January. “The surveys are complete,” amicus curiae Shyam Divan told the bench on behalf of ICFRE and CEC.
The report will be the first assessment of the damage to Bellary from illegal and excessive mining.
The mining and transportation industry is hopeful the court will allow them to resume operations in Bellary in phased manner once the report is submitted.