Form committee to examine mining illegalities: NGO

Form committee to examine mining illegalities: NGO

 Samaj Parivartan Samudaya (SPS), the non-governmental organisation fighting legal battle against illegal mining, on Wednesday opposed before the Supreme Court the recommendation made by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for resumption of mining in ‘A’ and ‘B’ category of mines in Karnataka’s Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts.

Appearing for SPS, advocate Prashant Bhushan urged a forest bench presided over by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, to set up an independent committee to examine other illegalities than the encroachment by the lease holders. 

He wanted the court to ensure “disgorgement of illicit plunder and illegal mining as well as reparation cost of environment and health damage caused by the mining companies.”

‘Permissible mining’
Besides, the counsel urged the court to affix maximum permissible mining for the region by taking into account inter-generational equity and environmental sustainability, which should not be more than 10 million tonnes per year.

“The same is more than sufficient for local domestic needs,” he added.  

“The domestic need of steel industry is not more than 70 million to 80 million tonnes of iron ore per year. However, the production was over 200 million tonnes, with a bulk of the ore being exported. There is no reason why India should destroy its own environment and deplete its natural wealth to fill the coffers of few private companies,” the counsel pointed out.

Bhushan said that the apex court should constitute a multi-agency committee to ensure the integrity and legality of future mining.

“The categorisation mining leases in ‘A’ and ‘B’ and permitting them to resume mining operations without considering other illegalities committed by them, has led to business as usual by some of the mining leases,” he said.

The counsel cited example of Varalaxmi Mining Company, which was placed in ‘A’ category and allowed resumption of mining despite deputy commissioner recommending for cancellation of lease and putting it in ‘C’ category.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing as amicus curiae, had submitted that the CEC was of the view that by and large substantial progress has been made on reclamation and rehabilitation works in ‘A’ and ‘B’ category mines and so the time has come to extend the order all mines in both categories.

He also urged the court not to entertain individual pleas made by some lease holders on their categorisation and demarcation of boundaries.

Divan referred to the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act as well as the Environment Protection Act, empowering the government to terminate lease prematurely in case of illegalities for seeking cancellation of leases falling in ‘C’ category.

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