Cancel 49 mining leases in Karnataka, says SC panel

Greed of a few people putting ecology in peril

Cancel 49 mining leases in Karnataka, says SC panel

The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on Monday recommended cancellation of 49 mining leases in three districts of Karnataka, including some belonging to both BJP and Congress politicians.

The mining leases facing the axe include that of Associated Mining Company owned and operated by G Janardhana Reddy, former minister in Yeddyurappa-led BJP government, who is now in CBI custody for various offences. Others whose mining leases have been directed to be revoked are Congress leader Allum Veerabhadrappa and V S Lad, relative of Congress MP Anil Lad.

The mining firms whose leases have been cancelled include Canara Minerals, Matha Minerals, V S Lad and Sons, Deccan Mining Syndicate and public sector Mysore Minerals Ltd. The leases come under Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts. The CEC found the firms guilty of massive illegal extraction of iron ore.

The panel under the chairmanship of P V Jayakrishnan also favoured fixing a ceiling of 25 million metric tonnes of total iron ore production under all mining leases in Bellary district and five million metric tonnes under the leases in Chitradurga and Tumkur districts.

“The extent and level of rampant unauthorised, unregulated, environmentally unsustainable and illegal mining in its various facets and consequent massive encroachment on forest areas, perhaps, had no other parallel in the country,” the Committee said.

The CEC contended that various rules under different laws like the Forest Act and Environment (Protection) Act were given a “go by” by the miners. “What is more, there has been all round severe degradation of environment with all its attendant problems because of the unsatiable greed of a few. The ecological security and bio-diversity of the region has been gravely affected by the unsustainable mining activities,” the panel said, also holding officials responsible for the illegal mining.

In its final report, the CEC classified the leases into three categories on the basis of the level of illegalities found in them.

The leases falling in ‘A’ category were 45 in number, including the non-working leases where marginal illegality was found. The CEC recommended for the conditional resumption of operations under these mining leases.

The category ‘B’ leases, 72 in all, were found to be involved in illegal mining by way of creating mining pits up to 10 per cent in excess of the sanctioned limit. The panel recommended that these leases could be allowed resumption of operation only after reclamation and rehabilitation works were undertaken and penalty was deposited by the lease holders.

As far as category ‘C’ was concerned, the CEC said, “the leases should be cancelled on account of substantial illegal mining. As penalty/compensation, the entire sale proceeds from e-auction of the existing stocks of iron ore should be retained by the monitoring committee and a reclamation and rehabilitation plan  implemented at the cost of lessee.”

Mining mess

* Crackdown on 49 companies in Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts of Karnataka for engaging in massive illegal extraction of iron ores
* Errant firms include Associated Mining Company owned by former minister G Janardhan Reddy
* CEC favours putting ceiling of 25 MMT for total production of iron ore from all mining leases in Bellary
* Panel finds various rules made under different laws like the Forest Act and Environment (Protection) Act were given a ‘go by’ by miners

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