Times of India : SC sets up joint committee to inspect illegal mining in Karnataka
Source : Times of India
Published on : 7th May 2011
A week after stalling exploration of iron ore in 19 mines, the Supreme Court on Friday turned the heat on alleged rampant illegal mining activity in Karnataka by setting up a joint inspection team and empowering it to close down those which breached the mine lease conditions.
The committee will inspect the 99 iron ore mines and demarcate their lease area, said a bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Aftab Alam and K S Radhakrishnan after amicus curiae A D N Rao alleged that many of them were carrying out mining much beyond the leased area.
It said: "If the inspection team comes to the conclusion that there has been illegal mining in the areas outside the demarcated lease boundary then the lessee shall forthwith stop mining operation not just in the encroached area but in the entire lease area."
The bench clarified that encroachment would include creation of mining pits, overburdened dumps and construction of roads leaving little room for manipulation by mine lease owners.
On April 29, the court had suspended operation in 19 mines in the state based on the April 15 report of its environmental panel, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which said there was rampant illegal mining in collusion with politicians in power and bureaucrats.
Rao pointed out that though the HC had taken into account the stinging report of Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde and refused to quash the FIRs lodged against the mine lease holders, it had allowed them to carry on with mining activity. He sought a stay of the HC order.
But, the bench was angry with Rao for seeking a blanket ban on mining without providing it with the sketches, charts and data to qualify the alleged encroachments.
Looking at the spread of the malaise, the bench set up the inspection team saying the data presented before it by the CEC needed re-verification before passing a restraint.
The team would consist of senior officials of the forests, mines and geology departments of the Karnataka government besides a representative each from the Lokayukta, the CEC, and the lease owner. The demarcation would be carried out in their presence.
In the event an illegality was recorded against a lease owner, the latter would have an opportunity to contest the ban in the Supreme Court but would have to forthwith stop exploration of minerals, the court said.
The rampant illegal mining in Karnataka was first highlighted by Justice Hegde, who had regretted the brazen manner in which iron ore was extracted throwing the law to the winds.
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