Andhra Pradesh tourism minister and mining baron G Janardhan Reddy on Wednesday defied both the Supreme Court and his own government, saying Obulapuram Mining Co owned by him has received no show cause notice from the Andhra Pradesh government or anybody else asking it to halt its operations.
Earlier, the state government said it had banned mining operations at six iron ore mines, including those owned by Reddy, in three villages in Anantapur district pending ''appropriate orders'' from the Supreme Court on a report of its Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on environment.
While saying that he did not want to comment on a case that is before the Supreme Court, Reddy wondered about the basis on which the CEC had prepared its report. No CEC member had visited the OMC's area of operations, he said.
"I think the AP government must have given the notice to media,'' he added sarcastically. ''I have not received any communication from the government to stop the mining activities of OMC."
The CEC report that has indicted OMC and other companies over illegal mining was submitted on 19 November, a day after the Andhra Pradesh government sought a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the issue under political pressure.
Reddy told reporters in Hyderabad that there has been no hitch in regular ore extraction activity by OMC. ''There is no question of stopping the activities,'' he said, adding that the company is prepared for a legal battle.
Andhra Pradesh announced a ban on all mining activity in the district bordering Orissa followed a letter written by the CEC urging the state government to take steps to stop illegal mining operations, particularly those of OMC. The government also decided not to allow transportation of iron ore already mined by OMC and other companies involved.
However, Janardhana Reddy said the apex court had never asked the CEC to take up any kind of study. "The matter is sub-judice. The report of CEC is an exparte report, without hearing OMC. I am confident that the Supreme Court will give us an opportunity to file objections to the CEC report. We respect and abide by the judicial process,'' he said.
While Reddy's OMC has three mining leases in these villages, the other three leases are held by Mahabaleswarappa and Sons, Bellary Iron Ore Pvt Ltd Ltd and Anantapur Mining Corp Ltd.
The developments come a week after the CEC said OMC was carrying out illegal mining operations in the Bellary Reserve Forest area and indicted the Andhra Pradesh government for trying to cover up the illegal mining of iron ore.
While the Reddys of Andhra Pradesh are currently in the limelight, neighbour Orissa has initiated similar crackdowns on illegal mining on its side of the border. The Orissa government has ordered suspension of work in as many as 128 mines.
''They have been asked to stop operations because they do not possess various statutory requirements they are supposed to have,'' said Orissa steel and mines secretary Ashok Mohadeo Rao Dalwai earlier this month.
The so-far forested area between the two states is rich not only in iron ore but in manganese and other ores as well. It is no longer a secret that top politicians in both states, including Andhra's Reddy brothers, have leveraged their way into power through the pelf acquired from illegal mining.
But ''Trees don't have votes,'' as Jim Corbett put it back in the 1940's.