The Karnataka government on Monday approached the Supreme Court seeking permission to allow mining in the state to ‘a limited extent and period’ to meet the current shortfall in iron ore.
The government stated before the green bench of the apex court: In 2013-14, only 18.118 million tonnes (mt) would be produced and the following year 22.18 mt. This would leave a shortage of 7.5 mt against the permissible level of 30 mt. Therefore, the state wanted production capacity to be increased temporarily for two years. The temporary permission to produce more may be balanced by reducing the production capacity for the remaining lease period.
The court had appointed a central empowered committee (CEC) to investigate and monitor the mining operations in Karnataka and other mineral-rich states. The committee has categorised the Karnataka mines into A, B and C categories according to the environmental harm they had caused due to illegal mining. The court had stopped the operations in some of the mines which violated green norms, while imposed strict conditions on a few others.
In its application, the state government said it would submit a list of mines which could operate. It asked the court to direct the committee to give temporary sanction to those in the selected list. The state-owned Mysore Minerals Limited (MML) might be included on the list.
The government stated the demand for iron ore for various industries is around 40 mt per annum at present and it is likely to increase in the next two years. All the three categories of mines, if they were allowed to function fully within the conditions, would produce a total of 32.4 mt. However, no decision has been taken on the resumption of production due to court orders, the states said. Therefore, it asked the court to permit processing of the applications from the mining firms and execute fresh lease deeds for 10 mt, for now. Production would take two more years. Therefore, the court was requested to help alleviate the shortage of iron ore arising in the next few years.
Counsel assisting the court in these matters told the judges a meeting had been called by the CEC on December 17 and 20 in Bangalore to iron out all issues concerned with the renewal of leases. However, the court adjourned the hearing till next week when the association of iron ore manufacturers is likely to submit its views.
Providing the status of the mining situation, the government stated that out of 46 mines belonging to the A category (least harmful) 12 have started operations. The government-owned National Mineral Development Corporation or NMDC has also been allowed to operate its mines.
Out of 62 mines belonging to B category only three have started operations.
The government submitted that licences of 51 ‘C category’ mining firms had been cancelled, as they had done irretrievable damage to ecology. The cabinet had discussed the status of the leases based on the report of the CEC. The final decision would be taken soon and submitted to the court, the government said.
- The Karnataka govt told court that in 2013-14, only 18.118 million tonnes (mt) will be produced and the following year 22.18 mt
- This would leave a shortage of 7.5 mt. Therefore, the state wanted production capacity to be increased temporarily for two years
- The state government told court that it would submit a list of mines which could operate. It asked the court to direct the court-appointed panel to give temporary sanction to those on the selected list. The state-owned Mysore Minerals Limited (MML) may figure on the list
- The cental empowered committee will meet on December 17 and 20 in Bangalore to iron out all issues concerned with the renewal of leases