The Supreme Court on Friday took a tough stand over the resumption of mining in Karnataka and asserted that unless it was sure that the reclamation and rehabilitation (R & R) steps are “hundred per cent” complied with, operations cannot be allowed.
“There is an assumption that operations can start and R& R will follow,” the Bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam observed. But it is a wrong assumption, the three-judge Bench clarified.
Various associations of miners and manufacturers tried to persuade the court to permit them to resume mining at least in the A category mines. This category of 16 mining companies, considered to be the lest environmentally predatory, were hoping for a long time that they will be allowed to resume excavations. But their hopes were dashed by on Friday’s hearing.
In fact, the public interest petitioner’s counsel, Prashant Bhushan, told the judges that even A category mines were operating in forest areas, destroying the ecology and reducing agricultural cultivation by 25 per cent. There are allegations of criminal activities and smuggling as well. The judges asked the petitioner, Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, to file a detailed affidavit on this aspect by Monday.
The judges further asked the centrally-empowered committee (CEC) to state what are the permissions required to operate the mines, what are the statutory clearances and how R& R should be implemented at least in the A category mines. The court wanted a “comprehensive report” on these aspects at the next hearing. There was no question of taking up the issue of B and C category mines now, the judges said.
Amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) Shyam Divan, appointed by the court, submitted that the Indian Bureau of Mines should examine the mines before giving approval for starting operations for five years. Moreover, permissions under the water and air pollution laws are also mandatory for mining operations. Whether the mines have fulfilled these conditions should be examined, he said.
C S Vaidyanathan, representing the manufacturers, told the court that some of the metal industries will have to shut soon if ore is not available. There is hardly two million tonnes stock now and it is not sufficient to run the industry. The workers also will have to be paid.
Arvind Datar, counsel for National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), said that it can provide 7.5 million tonnes per month. But the corporation’s problem was that there were not enough rakes to clear the stock.
The court accepted the recommendations in the latest report of its CEC. According to it, the meeting held by NMDC with interested parties on August 13 has yielded positive results and the Karnataka government has also approved the recommendations.
The court will hear next Thursday and Friday arguments pursuant to the CEC report of April 27 recommending CBI investigation into theft of iron ore from Belekere port in Karnataka in which the Adanis are involved. Lokayukta of Karnataka had also found massive theft and bribery at Belekere port and had indicted the Adani group of companies.