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SC asks Karnataka to issue iron ore export licences

Exporters complain of not getting approvals despite orders of the court made earlier.

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Karnataka government to process the applications of iron ore exporters and grant approvals according to rules. The state government stated that it had received several applications for iron ore exports and they are being processed.

On the other hand, exporters complained that they were not getting approvals despite orders of the court made earlier. They complained that the government was “sitting” on their applications. Moreover, the government was seeking undertakings from them to delay approvals.

Among those who have complained to the Supreme Court are Sesa Goa Ltd, MSPL Ltd, SB Minerals and Mineral Enterprises Ltd. The government had announced new regulations which were to come into force from April 1. During the last hearing, the state government sought two weeks time to put in place the infrastructure to implement those regulations. On that assurance, the bench headed by Justice R V Raveendran had lifted the earlier stay on the export of iron ore from various ports of the state.

Though the deadline for setting up the regulating machinery has passed and exporters have applied for permission, they complained that the government was not sanctioning export, affecting their international commitments. The government stated that they were processing the applications. The court then passed the order.

The state government prohibited export of iron ore following allegations of widespread illegal mining in the state and transport to other states and abroad. The Lok Ayukta also confirmed violation of the environmental and licensing regulations. It was in this context that the Karnataka Prohibition of Illegal Mining Act was passed imposing strict rules for the trade. Following this, the exporters moved the court last year for export of their existing stock lying in various harbours. Despite the court orders and government promises, they have not been able to export their stock so far.

The Karnataka government officials refused to comment on the development saying that they were yet to get a copy of the Supreme Court order. A senior official in the department of mines and geology said, “We will process the applications of miners for issue of export permit once we get the instructions from the government.”

“This (the SC order) is a final nail in the coffin. There is no further scope for the state government to delay issue of export permits. We hope the government would issue permits shortly. There are about a dozen mining companies waiting for the export permits since April 20,” one of the mining companies waiting for the permits said.

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