No fresh mining leases in Ktaka without nod from Centre

While Karnataka prepares to restart iron ore mining in Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts on a bigger scale, the Centre has told the state government that mining leases cannot be renewed without its prior approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act.

It has also asked the Karnataka government to direct the user agency (lease holder) to stop mining operations, if any, being undertaken without the explicit approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) as per the law.

The MoEF said, “Renewal of mining lease is to be treated as grant of fresh lease under the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980.”

It further added that the validity of the forest department clearance has to be regarded as expired with the expiry of the mining lease.

“The provisions of the guidelines issued under the Act governing the grant of approval for renewing mining leases stipulates that approval for diversion of the forest land for grant/renewal of mining lease shall normally be granted for a period co-terminus with the period of mining lease proposed under the MMDR Act, 1957 or rules framed thereunder, but not exceeding 30 years,” the letter written by assistant general of forests to Karnataka’s principal secretary (forests) said.

“It is evident that for the purpose of the validity of mining leases, provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 recognise only provisions of the MMDR Act and not the clause of deemed extension as given under the Mineral Concession Rule and hence the validity of the forest clearance has expired with the expiry of mining lease,” it added.

The letter was annexed to an affidavit of the MoEF submitted in the Supreme Court in a pending application filed by the Sandur Manganese and Iron Ores.

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