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SC panel for partial resumption of Karnataka mining

Central Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to probe illegal mining in Karnataka has recommended restarting of operations in one of the three categories of leases, with riders.

The SC is to hear the case today.

In its report to the apex court on Thursday, the CEC says Category A mines may be permitted to resume work after preparation and approval of a reclamation and resettlement/rehabilitation (R&R) plan for each of these, in accordance with the earlier SC guidelines on the issue. Each lessee, it has said, must undertake to comply with the R&R details and with the permissible annual production.

In its earlier report in February, the CEC had classified the mining leases into three categories A, B and C depending on the extent of illegalities. Category A comprises working leases wherein no or marginal illegality was found and non working leases wherein no marginal illegalities were found. The numbers of such leases are 21 and 24, respectively. They include NMDC, Mineral Enterprises Ltd and two leases of Mysore Minerals Ltd, among others.

If accepted by the SC, the move will be a big boost to mining companies and steel mills, which are facing acute shortage of raw material.

According to the report, the mining lease should have the required statutory clearances such as environment clearance, approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, an approved mining plan and consent to operate.

To restart work at the Category B leases, other than the seven mining leases located near the inter-state boundary, the mines have to make sure the illegal area identified by the joint team is physically undertaken according to the R&R plan. The conditions include the riders for Category A. In addition, these should meet other conditions like the reclamation and rehabilitation of the area,, and deposit the penalty/compensation for illegal mining, as decided by the court.

“The mining operations in respect of seven mining leases located on/nearby the inter-state boundary between Karnataka and Andhra (kept in Category B) may not presently be allowed to be restarted. The survey sketches of these leases should be finalised after the inter-state boundary is decided and thereafter the individual leases should be dealt with depending upon the level of the illegality found,” M K Jiwrajka, member-secretary, CEC, said in the report.

The CEC has also made several other recommendations to the Supreme Court regarding payment of exemplary compensation/penalty by the mining leases under Category B, and cancellation and allotment/assignment of the mining leases falling in ‘Category C’ among others.

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