Apex court may ban mining in 3 Karnataka districts

July 15th, 2011 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday indicated that it may ban iron ore mining in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka if it was found that there was environmental degradation due to illegal activities.

The ban would remain in force till the ecology of the entire area was reclaimed to its original shape, said the apex court’s forest bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Swatanter Kumar.

The judges, however, said that in order to strike a balance in the efforts to undo the damage caused to environment and the needs of the domestic steel industry, the central government-owned National Mining Development Corporation could be exempted from the ban.

The court said that Karnataka-owned Mysore Mining Development Corporation may face curbs as it was engaged in outsourcing its mining leases to private players.

Chief Justice Kapadia said that the court would enforce the Haryana model for reclaiming and restoring the health of the area suffering from environmental degradation because of extensive illegal mining.

The judges asked the court-appointed lawyer Shyam Divan if he thought there was a need for seeking assistance fom environment experts for undoing the damage caused to the iron-ore rich areas of the state. “Do you think we need the assistance of an expert body,” the court said.

Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for the private miners, sought to suggest ways for environment protection, the judges told him to spell out the steps they would take to undo the damage.

“What steps all of you will take and make contribution for the restoration of the area. Give us a note on this,” the chief justice said.

Chief Justice Kapadia told Dave that “we are making it clear on what line we are moving on”.

The court said that it would refrain from going into the illegalities and the collusion between officials and other players but straight away address the question of steps that were needed to restore the ecology.

The court said that in the event of a ban on mining it would extend even to those companies which had valid mining licences and were not engaged in acting in breach of their licence conditions.

The court-appointed Central Empowered Committee, in its interim report, earlier told the judges that during nine years of its existence it had dealt with number of cases involving extensive illegal mining in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgrah and Orissa but all of them “pale into insignificance when compared to illegal mining on colossal scale that has taken place in the state of Karnataka particularly in district Bellary”.

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