New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday—citing provisions of the amended Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, 1957—asked Odisha to consider allowing 102 mining leaseholders to resume operations, subject to conditions.

This comes as a major relief for operators who had been barred by the apex court’s May 2014 ruling.

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act was amended in 2015 to enable the transfer of captive mining leases, not granted through auction. The new law also addressed the grievances of miners regarding pending renewals as many leaseholders in India operated on “deemed licences"—renewals that state governments have neither approved nor rejected.

A bench comprising justices J.S. Khehar and C. Nagappan asked Odisha to consider renewing applications of miners filed before January 2015 or at least 12 months prior to expiry of the lease. The court also clarified that the state government must inform a mining leaseholder about the status of the renewal application.

On 16 May 2014, the court had restrained 102 mining leaseholders from carrying on any operations in response to a plea filed by non-profit organization Common Cause. The court-appointed Central Empowered Committee, in a report, had said that a large number of mines in the state had been operating even after the expiry of the lease.

The report stated that of the 187 iron ore and manganese mines in Odisha, 56 were functional while 131 did not have the required statutory approvals or the leases of which had lapsed.

Several mining firms had, in 2015, moved the apex court seeking permission to resume operations in Odisha.