'All mines in State forests violate law'

“There is not even a single mine in the entire state which is presently operational and is not working in violation of the provisions of the FC Act,” the CEC has noted in its report to the Supreme Court.

According to information provided by the Forest department, only 21 mining leases in the entire State are working within the lease areas approved under the Forest Conservation Act. “It is seen that all of these 21 mines fall in the category of not working/idle mines”, says CEC.

The findings are significant as the most iron-ore rich areas in Karnataka, and in particular Bellary, are in forests. If the government accepts CEC recommendation that operations in mines violating law be suspended, this could bring the entire mining industry in Bellary to a halt.

Under the FC Act, mines operating in forest areas have to obtain permission from the Central government for mining operations. A little more than half the mines in the State operate in forest areas, and in ore-rich Bellary, 98 of the total mines operate in forest areas.

The CEC also reserved harsh words for the state government, pointing that out of 99 cases of mining leases involved in illegal mining, the survey and demarcation of only seven leases have so far been completed.

The CEC also noted that inspection of mines at Bellary by the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) found that all operating mines were operating in violation of the law. “It may be seen that each of the working mines inspected by the IBM was found to be operating in violation of the applicable rules. There was not even a single mine which was working in accordance with rules”, the committee has noted.

Bellary pressure

On the transfer of officials in Bellary, the CEC noted with approval the transfer of the Deputy Commissioner, the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Director of Mines, and the Superintendent of Police.

The CEC also noted that political crisis had ensued after the Chief Minister had transferred some officers from Bellary. The Chief Secretary, the committee notes, has assured that the defaulting officers would not be transferred back to the district.

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