Court lifts ban on 90 Karnataka mines, but cancels 49 leases

FPA view of the Indian Supreme Court building is seen in New Delhi. Reuters

Almost two years after its ban, the Supreme Court on Thursday allowed resumption of mining activities in 90 mines in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka.

A forest bench of Justices Aftab Alam, K S Radhakrishnan and Ranjan Gogoi allowed reopening of 27 category 'A' and 63 category 'B' mines, subject to conditions, including adherence to the reclamation and rehabilitation plans.

However, the bench cancelled 49 leases of category 'C' mines, where the most illegalities were reported, for "playing havoc with the national economy" and casting an "ominous cloud on the credibility of the system of governance".

Stating that the satellite images with respect to environmental damage and destruction by illegal mining had "shocked judicial conscience", the court said public interest would precede individual interest of these 49 category 'C' leaseholders and, hence, "complete closure" of these mines was warranted.

The leases for iron ore mining had been categorised by the court-appointed central empowered committee as 'A', 'B' and 'C', based on the level of alleged illegalities.

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