Yeddyurappa admits iron ore racket

For the first time, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has admitted the existence of an illegal iron ore export racket in the state, including the transport of 35 lakh metric tonnes of iron ore to a local port without any licences or permits in recent months.

"Looting has taken place but we are determined to end it," said Yeddyurappa on the floor of the Assembly on Wednesday as the Congress and JD(S) protested in the well of the House seeking an adjournment motion to discuss the illegal ore issue and the resignation of the Lokayukta, allegedly over the government's indifference to corruption.

"Iron ore has gone without licences. An application has been filed in the High Court about this. We are looking at it why it has happened. We want to be open about it. We will not protect anyone. We want to look at all records for exports that have happened in the last eight to 10 years, and look at the status of licences and permits issued for them," said Yeddyurappa.

According to him, as much as 48 lakh MT of iron ore were shipped out of the country from the controversial Bellekeri port near the Karwar coast in 2007-08 without licences and permits being accounted for.

The Chief Minister's response came after Opposition leader Siddaramaiah badgered for an adjournment motion to discuss the issue, saying the BJP government was directly involved in the mining scam since the illegal exports have happened largely on its watch in the state. "The government must not support the looting of natural resources," he said.

Meanwhile, in the Karnataka High Court, four out of eight exporters who had sought release of their seized iron ore stocks from the Bellikeri port sought to withdraw their petitions. An advocate for the Karnataka forest department, however, argued against the withdrawal plea saying it would amount to an abuse of law.

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