The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has approved 16 iron ore mining lessees in Karnataka to resume operations, but has not permitted them to produce more than a third of their earlier annual sanctioned capacity.
These mines together have been allowed to produce 8.24 million tonnes (mt) per annum, as against their original sanctioned capacity of 26.48 mt.
Sesa Goa, with sanctioned capacity of six mtpa, has been allowed to mine only 2.29 mtpa, about 38 per cent. It has a lease area of 163.5 hectares in Chitradurga district.
Of the 16 leases (13 in Category A and three in Category B), only Mineral Enterprises Ltd (MEL), with 103.8 ha of leased area in Chitradurga district and approval to mine 380,000 tonnes per annum, has all the approvals in place and is likely to restart mining any time, a top company official said.
“Once the CEC approves the R&R (reclamation and ecological rehabilitation plan), other approvals have to be secured like the mining plan from the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, and forest clearance under the Forest Conservation (FC) Act of 1980. We (MEL) have secured all the approvals and are ready to restart mining at any time,” Basant Poddar, managing director, told Business Standard.
According to the Action Taken Report given to the apex court on August 8, the CEC has so far accepted and approved the R&R plans of 16 mining leases. The Dehradun-based Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education had prepared the plans.
The SC is likely to take up the opening of 72 mining leases having less than 50 ha of lease area in Category B at its next hearing, this Friday.
Other mining leases approved in Bellary district are (all in tonnes), of RBSSN (two leases, with 200,000 and 40,000), B Kumara Gouda (640,000), Nadeem Minerals (640,000), VESCO (590,000), KMMI (430,000 tonnes), Shantipriya Iron Ore Mine (130,000 tonnes), SKME (640,000), Sri Allum Prashant (320,000), Mysore Minerals-TIOM (650,000), Mysore Minerals- SIOM (410,000), TBAPL (560,000) and Zeenath Transport (440,000). MEL (BBH), R Praveen Chandra (350,000) and Sesa Goa are located in Chitradurga district.
While all these mines are allowed by the CEC to restart mining, they have to also get their plans approved by IBM. So far, only three mines, two leases of RBSSN and MEL, have got IBM approval.
Poddar said the mining lessees have been allowed to fix their own price, based on the cost of mining, and declare the quantity to the monitoring committee (MC), appointed by the SC, for auction.
The MC had sold 26.58 mt iron ore through auctions till July 31 and realised Rs 6,416 crore. Presently, about 7.35 mt of ore, mostly low-grade, is available for sale.
In addition to the sale price, Rs 1,496 crore has been recovered and paid to the government towards royalty (Rs 606 crore), forest development tax (Rs 594 crore), value added tax (Rs 271 crore) and Central Sales Tax (Rs 25 crore). Meanwhile, the CEC has asked the Union ministry of environment and forests to take process the proposals for clearance and approval under the FC Act.