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SC panel recomends cancellation of 49 mining leases in Karnataka

New Delhi: The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) today filed its final report on illegal mining in Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts of Karnataka recommending cancellation of 49 mining leases for “flagrant” violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act and other laws.

The 49 Mining leases include those of Mysore Manganese Co, Associated Mining, Matha Minerals, SB Minerals, L N Mining Co, Rajapura Mines, Milana Minerals, Thungabhadra Minerals Ltd and Mysore Minerals Ltd among others which are recommended to be cancelled spread over 1,914 hectares as they had collectively enchroached additional 895 hectares.

The CEC has told the court that “these (49) leases should be directed to be cancelled on account of being found to be involved in substantially illegal mining”.

It further said that “as penalty or compensation, the entire sale proceeds received or to be received by way of e-auction of the existing stocks of iron ore should be retained by the monitoring committee and the R&R plan should be directed to be implemented at the cost of the lessee”.

The CEC recommended that the mining available after cancellation of the 49 leases may be directed to be alloted the “end user” of the iron ore through a “transparent process of bidding” to the highest bidder.

“The iron ore production from such mines should be used for captive use only and no sale/export will be permissible,” the committee added.

The CEC slammed the government machinery for the “rampant unauthorised unregulated, environmentally unsustainable amnd illegal mining” saying the “massive encroachment in the forest areas had no other parrallel in the country”.

“The valuable public natural resources were allowed to be used for extraction of maximum possible quantity of iron ore to cash in on the steep rise in iron ore prices in the international market by a few persons and without ensuring commensurate benefits to the society or without any regard for ensuring the inter-generational equity.

“The massive illegal mining and transportation had become possible because of the blatant connivance of the concerned officials and public functionaries. The officials had either knowingly connived or looked the other way when illegality on the scale hitherto unknown was being resorted to and limited natural resources were frittered away for the benefit of a miniscule few,” it said.

THe CEC said the sharp degradation due to “unsatiable greed of a few” came under control only after the apex court’s intervention.

The CEC also recommended “no new mining leases, including for which notifications have already been issued, will be granted without permission of this court”.

The committee also asked the Supreme Court to accept the recommendation of Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) for a ceiling of 25 million tonnes of annual production, inspection of Bellary District and five MMT for district Chitradurga and Tumkur together subject to condition that all environment and other safeguards are in place and due diligence is exercised by concerned agencies.

The committee categorised all the mining leases of the three districts into three categories A, B and C and the 49 leases found in “substantial” illegality fell in category C.
These 49 leases were found involved in illegal mining by way of either having mining pits 10 percent more than the sanctioned lease area or with over 15 per cent waste dump outside the sanctioned lease areas or found in flagrant violation of Forest Conservation Act.

Category B was of the leases where illegal mining pits were less than ten percent beyond sanctioned areas or dump waste was less than 15 per cent beyond the sanctioned areas or those leases which fell on the boundary between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh for which sketches have not been finalised.

72 mining leases fell in category B for which the CEC recommended that exemplary compensation/ penalty be imposed on the lessee at the rate of Rs five crore for per hectare of illegal mining pit and Rs one crore for illegal mining by way of over burden dumps mining operations allowed after implementation of R&R plan is physically undertaken and found satisfactory.

These 72 leases included those of MSPL Ltd, Mysore Minerals, Balaji Mines and Minerals, Sesa goa, Canara Minerals, Bharat Minerals and Chemicals, Minerals Enterprise, Bellary Mining Corporation and Narayana Mines among others.

The Category A leases, where no or marginal illegality was found were 45 in total.
The committee recommended sale of iron ore continue to be through e-auction and the same should be conducted by the monitoring committee.

It said mining operations in a lease may be allowed to be physically resumed only after the existing stock of the mineral, excluding sub grade mineral, is sold through e-auction by the monitoring committee and physically transported from the lease areas.

The apex court bench, headed by Chief justice S H Kapadia, had on July 29 suspended mining operations and transportation of iron ore from Bellary district saying “over-exploitation” of the area has caused large-scale environmental degradation.

The apex court had later allowed state-owned National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) to operate its two mines for extraction of iron ore in Bellary district of Karnataka for domestic consumption.

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