Mining industry body FIMI has termed today’s Supreme Court order of cancelling all the 49 leases in category C mines in Karnataka as “too harsh” and indicated that it may seek a review of this part of the order.

Besides, it said the iron ore supply situation in the State will ease only to a limited extent in the immediate future and only about 10 million tonnes (MT) of ore would be available in the market.

FIMI Secretary-General R. K. Sharma told PTI that out of a total 93 mines in Category — A and B, only about 50-60 mines will get operational due to stringent conditions and other regulatory issues. “It will lead to production of around 10 MT iron ore only.”

Sesa Goa — one of the beneficiaries of today’s apex court order as its mine was in category B and got permission to operate — declined to comment on it, saying “it is yet to receive the order”.

Meanwhile, Sharma said: “We welcome the judgement in respect of Category—A and Category—B but the judgement on Category—C of closing them and auctioning them is too harsh.

These mines have remained closed for about two years.

“FIMI had suggested (to the apex court) that these mines should be allowed to function, pay the penalty as was paid by the leaseholders of Category—B mines and meet the other conditions. This has not been accepted by the Supreme Court.”

He added that “we will get in touch with our lawyers to find out whether we can approach the court for a review but this has not yet been decided. Let’s read the judgement first.”

The Supreme Court has cancelled 49 leases in mines reporting maximum illegalities in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka, but allowed resumption of activity in mines with lesser illegalities as recommended by a Central Empowered Committee.

The CEC had categorised the mines in the area in three categories — A, B and C. The mines in which there was least or no irregularities were categorised as ‘A’ and those with maximum illegalities were placed in category ‘C’

Of the 166 mines that were banned by the apex court during July-August, 2011 due to environmental degradation of the areas, 21 were in Category-A, 72 in Category-B and 49 in Category-C. The balance 24 mines were already non-working.

The lease holders of category-A and B mines will now have to meet conditions related to the reclamation and rehabilitation (R&R) programme, which was suggested by the CEC and accepted by the apex court, to reopen their mines.

The CEC had also put an upper ceiling for all mines in Karnataka and had fixed the maximum iron ore production in the State at 30 MT per year. Last year, the apex court had also given industry partial relief allowing 18 Category—A mines to operate. However, only 7-8 mines have become operational till date.

(This article was published on April 18, 2013)
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