New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday cancelled all the leases for iron ore extraction in 49 category C mines - with the highest degree of illegal mining - in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka.
The apex court's forest bench of Justice Aftab Alam, Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Ranjan Gogoi, while accepting the recommendations of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on green matters in its Feb 3, 2012 report, said the "leases in respect of 'C' Category mines will stand cancelled...."
Category C mines are those in which the CEC detected the highest level of illegal mining and encroachment. Category B have lesser illegal activities and Category A have the least violations.
Justice Gogoi said: "The proceeds of the sales of the iron ore of the 'C' category mines made through the monitoring committee will stand forfeited to the state. The monitoring committee will remit the amounts held by it on this account to the SPV (special purpose vehicle) for utilisation in connection with the purposes for which it had been constituted."
The court confirmed its earlier order permitting mining activities in 18 category A mines. The court, however, put an embargo on the mining activities in seven mining leases falling in Karnatata-Andhra Pradesh border areas.
The court said the mining activities in seven mining leases would remain suspended till the demarcation of boundaries between the two states is cleared.
"The operation of the seven leases placed in B category situated on or near the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh inter-state boundary will remain suspended until finalisation of the inter-state boundary dispute, whereupon the question of commencement of operations in respect of the aforesaid seven leases will be examined afresh by the CEC."
The court said the "determination of the inter-state boundary between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh ... be made through the intervention of the office of Surveyor General of India."
The court vacated its earlier order restraining issuance of fresh mining leases.
Not accepting the recommendations of the CEC on the grant of fresh leases and in respect of pending applications for mining leases, the court said, "...This court's order dated 02.11.2012 placing an embargo on grant of fresh mining leases need not be continued any further."
"Grant of fresh mining leases and consideration of pending applications be dealt with in accordance with law, the directions contained in the present order as well as the spirit thereof," the court said.
The order read out by Justice Ranjan Gogoi accepted a number of recommendations of the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on green matters given in its various reports from 2011 to February 2013.
The CEC divided mines in the area in three categories, A, B and C depending on the extent of illegal mining in the districts.
The court reiterated its earlier order on the reopening of the 18 category mines subject to conditions. The remaining 45 mining leases in category 'A' and category 'B' would commence their operation after completing their reclamation and rehabilitation and after obtaining necessary permission and environmental clearances.
"We also direct that all consequential action in terms of the present order be completed with the utmost expedition", the court said.
The court's order came on the petition by Samaj Parivartana Samudaya drawing court's attention to the large scale illegal mining and the nexus between miners the those in power corridors.