Supreme Court sets up panel to survey 99 mining leases

A special three-judge forest Bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said  the committee would comprise officers from the  Forest and Geology Departments of Karnataka  officer, besides  representatives the from Lokayukta and the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC).

The court said the committee would survey the leased areas of 99 miners in the presence of the committe members. It clarified that the mining would be stopped in case any encroachment was found.

The committee would also demarcate the mining lease areas of the 99 miners.

“In some cases before us, at this ad-interim stage, we find that data need re-notification. Before passing any restraint order, we want to confirm veracity,” the Court said.  "If that team comes to the conclusion that there has been illegal mining in the area outside the demarcated leased boundary, leasee (miners) shall stop mining not only in its encroached area but also in the entire lease area," the Bench said.

Out of the 99 mining companies, the details of illegal mining by 74 miners have been found. In the remaining 25, no such report on encroachment was found.

In its order, the court suspended all mining operations by Laxmi Narayan Mining Company besides any transportation of iron ore of already taken out minerals by the firm.

The Bench, also comprising Justices Aftab Alam and K S Radhakrishnan, noted that the Karnataka Lokayukta “has given a report on December 18, 2008, stating that 1,081 hectares of forest has been used for the illegal mining or found to be encroached.”       Taking a tough stand, the apex court on April 29  suspended all mining operations, including transportation of the iron ore by 19 companies.

The court had relied upon the reports submitted by the CEC, pointing out to the large-scale illegal mining, and passed its order as an interim measure. The Bench had also taken into consideration the submission of the state government expressing its willingness to curb all illegal mining activities in the state as per the recommendations of the CEC.

“In view of the said response of the State Government, we direct, by an ad-interim order, that no mining operations and transportation in respect of mining leases given to 15 mining lease holders shall be carried out till further orders,” the Bench said. The court relied on the CEC’s first report submitted on April 15. The court had passed a similar order for suspension of the mining activity in case of four other companies mentioned in the CEC’s second report.

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