The Supreme Court has pronounced that 25 million tonnes of iron ore already extracted from mines in the Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka may be auctioned in the open market by the union steel ministry.
The order follows a ban on transport of iron ore from these districts after most of the mining there was found to be largely illegal and environmentally unsound by various panels, including one appointed by the Supreme Court itself.
A special forest bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia, Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Swatanter Kumar passed the order in view of the growing clamour from Indian steel manufacturers that they were suffering due to the shortfall in supply of the vital raw material.
The bench also allowed state-run National Mineral Development Corp to excavate 1 million tonnes of iron ore per month to help meet the demands of the iron and steel industry.
The bench clarified that the ore sold through auction should not be exported, and warned against the involvement of middlemen or intermediaries in the auction process.
The order of the bench came after a suggestion from the central empowered committee in its report pertaining to the modalities for such a sale.