Alarming illegal mining in Bellary, only 10% is legal: SC panel

Alarming illegal mining in Bellary, only 10% is legal: SC panel

Placing its report before the apex court, the expert body said a majority of companies are involved in illegal mining and recommended the state governemnt be directed to cancel their lease.

"It is estimated that the production of mines which are not found to be involved in substantial illegalities and which are eligible to continue mining operations may not be more than 10 percent of the total production of the iron ore in the district," the panel said in its 23-page report.

There are 148 iron ore mining leases sanctioned in Bellary district, out of which 124 now exist and it is estimated that about 90 percent of the production is from the forest area.
"The situation at present is alarming and calls for immediate radical remedial measures," senior advocate Shyam Diwan, appearing for the panel, said.

"As a result of mining and associated activities, what was once an area of green scenic undulating hilly terrain, today many areas present a barren dismal picture akin to a war-ravaged zone with huge ugly scars," he said adding a "majority of mines are involved in illegal mining outside the sanctioned lease area".

"In large number of cases, the permission for increasing the production of iron ore manifold has been granted recklessly without apparently taking into consideration the already alarming situation in the area," the report said.

Referring to Associate Mining Company, which is owned by the Reddy brothers, the panel said "the Indian Bureau of Mines has given consent to increase production from 1.52 lakh MT to 10 lakhs MT per annum".

"Most of the mines which were found by the joint team to be involved in illegal mining also happen to be the ones whose production has increased exponentially and disproportionate to the lease area," the report said.

The committee, however, said there should not be a blanket suspension on mining in the district as there are many people who are dependent on the industry for their livelihood.
"Considering the degradation on a large scale, grant of new mining lease and grant of additional area should be prohibited," the panel said adding "had the rules been strictly followed, the region would not have reached the present state of nadir."

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