SC orders inspection of six mines near Bellary forests


The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to conduct a field inspection and verify if six mining leases, half of which belong to the Reddy brothers, have encroached into the Bellary reserved forest areas in Andhra Pradesh.

The green bench led by Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia stressed that any trace of illegal mining within the forest area would lead to a shutdown of the mining operations. "In short, we want to know whether mining is going on in the forest areas of Bellary region relating to the six leases," the Bench ordered. The CEC was directed to file its report by January 5, 2011.

"If illegal mining is going on, we might simply stop it. We want to know whether environment is affected, whether mining is going on, and if so how much of it has affected the area. We might stay the mining as in the Haryana case (Aravalli mining)," the Chief Justice said.

In February this year, the Supreme Court had banned mining in 157 out of 261 mines in the Aravalli region and ordered comprehensive satellite photography of the region. The banned mines were spread over 15,000 square km in 15 districts of Rajasthan.

Friday's order came on a petition filed by NGO Samaj Parivartan Samudaya, which alleged that "blatant illegality is evident with respect (to) mining and encroachment of 10 hectares of unallotted forest land in Bellary reserve forest by M/s Obulapuram Mining Company".

The Reddy brothers had got a major relief on May 11 when the Supreme Court allowed them to resume mining on their leases located in areas bordering Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The court, however, had set a rider — that mines should be within 150 metres of the inter-state border.

The order had come on the Andhra Pradesh government's appeal after the Karnataka High Court allowed Obulapuram Mining Company to resume mining operations. On May 4, a Supreme Court-ordered Survey of India field report was read out to the court during a hearing. The report alleged discrepancies and overlapping in the lease sketches of the six mines.

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