Citing environmental degradation caused by over exploitation, the Supreme Court in a landmark decision on Friday imposed a ban on iron ore mining in Karnataka's Bellary district.
A 'green' bench of the apex court, headed by chief justice S H Kapadia, passed the order banning iron ore mining across 11,000 hectares of the district. The order follows a report of the central empowered committee (CEC), which said rampant illegal mining was causing environmental damage in the district, and had recommended an immediate suspension of mining.
A report by Karnataka's Lokayukta, Santosh Hegde, had also recently highlighted the prevalence of illegal mining in three districts - Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga. The Supreme Court will pass orders relating to illegal mining in the other two districts after getting the environment impact assessment reports.
The apex court also directed the ministry of environment and forest to submit an interim report giving details about the requirement of iron ore by the Indian steel industry and how much of it was the contribution of the Bellary mines. The court also directed the government to involve only public sector undertakings for mining in Bellary.
The CEC report had warned that the situation in Bellary was 'alarming' and called for "immediate radical remedial measures," to stop damage to the environment and ecology of the region. The report had, however, not suggested a blanket suspension of iron ore mining in the district.
But concerned about the extensive damage to the environment, the Supreme Court even refused to permit companies that had the right to mine in the district - and who had not violated any rules - from carrying out operations. These included two public sector mines.