Supreme Court lifts export ban on iron ore

The Supreme Court allowed mining companies in Karnataka to export iron ore lying at major ports in the state. The government had banned iron ore exports for six months. Since the ban came to an end this month, the court allowed the pleas of the mining companies that they be allowed to export the ore.

Last year, the government had prohibited exports of the ore amid reports of widespread violation of mining laws by the companies, including MSPL Ltd, Sesa Goa Ltd, and SB Minerals. Some of these companies said though they had not mined the ore illegally, they were losing crores of rupees because of the ban.

They also said they were unable to meet commitments made to foreign companies, and this would have serious consequences for exporters as well as for the finances of the state.

The bench, comprising Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik, allowed the companies to export the ore and stated that the authorities can meanwhile make inventories of the goods.

The Karnataka government said it had prepared a new notification for public comments and this would be notified very soon. It added that the extent of illegal mining was baffling and the lok ayukta's reports pointed out this problem. The notification was meant to tackle the menace, it said.

Exporters, however, said the notification would be delayed and the ore would be eroded by rains and wind. They also said that the government had violated its undertaking to the Karnataka High Court to settle the disputes out of court and issue a notification after discussion with them. Instead, the government had brought about a new set of prohibitions. ''This amounts to harassment,'' K K Venugopal, the counsel for the miners, said.