Supreme court partially lifts mining ban in Karnataka

The Supreme Court today allowed Category `A' mines, or mines spread over 50 hectares or  more, in Bellari district in southern Karnataka to restart operations after environmental clearance, a lawyer for the mines said.

The SC had earlier granted permission to state-run National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) to mine up to a million tonnes of iron ore per month.

The apex court's decision comes at a time when hardly eight million tones of iron ore stocks are available for auction in the Karnataka region. Steel industry sources say this will hardly be sufficient to feed steel mills in and around the state.

In addition, they expect another two to four million tonnes of additional ore stored at various stockyards of miners and private traders to be made available if the SC gives nod for auctioning those.

With most mines in Karnataka and neighbouring Goa closed, steel manufacturers, including JSW Steel and Kalyani Steel, are in dire need of iron ore.

The mining ban follows a Supreme Court order in 2011 directing closure of illegal mines as also those mines that have violated environment laws.

The SC had also directed an investigation by a government agency into environmental impact of mining in three districts of Karnataka.

The SC is yet to allow regular mining activity in southern Karnataka.