SC to hear K'taka plea to raise cap on ore extraction

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to hear a plea made by the Karnataka government, on raising the annual iron ore production limit from 30 to 40 million metric tonnes (MMT).

However, the court expressed caution on the matter, saying that the state government had to work it out within the limit.

A three-judge bench presided over by Justice A K Patnaik was initially reluctant to entertain the petition saying, “We want you (state government) to work out within the cap of 30 MMT. We can’t keep on varying it like this.”

The court said that it would hear the case on February 24. The Centre and the Karnataka government have been asked to respond to the application.

The Union steel ministry had in December filed an interlocutory application for raising the limit to 50 (MMT) contending that the limit was “quite insufficient” to meet the annual requirement of the industry.

The court, however, had previously refused to allow the plea saying that the Centre could file a review petition against the cap of 30 MMT for production of iron ore, which was fixed on April 18, 2013.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) — a group representing the interest of mining lease holders, including those from Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga — approached the apex court urging it to direct Karnataka to grant statutory approvals for category ‘A’ and ‘B’ mines within a time-bound manner.

The application filed by advocate Akhil Anand contended that despite the court’s order for resumption of mining, only 18 out of 72 mining leases (33 in ‘A’ and 39 in ‘B’ categories) are currently operational.

The FIMI sought a direction from the court to the Ministry of Environment and Forests to implement the recommendation of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for temporary working permission to the mining leases.

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