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SC allows iron ore exports for Karnataka miners, relaxes only e-auction route
New Delhi, May 20 - In a big relief for Karnataka miners, the Supreme Court on Friday relaxed restrictions on selling of extracted iron ore through e-auction only as it allowed export the stocks, including pellets, produced from the mines in the state's Ballari, Chitradurga and Tumakuru, as per the existing policy.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, said: "We are inclined to favourably consider the prayer made by the applicants and grant them permission to sell the already excavated iron ore stock-pile at various mines and stock yards located in the districts of Bellary, Tumkur, and Chitradurga in the state of Karnataka, without having to resort to the process of e-auction. Permission is granted to the applicants to enter into direct contracts to lift the excavated iron ore through inter-state sales."
"We also grant permission to the applicants to export the iron ore and pellets manufactured from the iron ore produced from the mines situated in the state of Karnataka, to countries abroad, as is being done in the rest of the country, but strictly in terms of the extant policy of the Government of India."
The bench, also comprising Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, said time has come to review the system that was put in place over a decade ago, on halting the unchecked excavation of iron ore in the three prime districts in Karnataka.
"Ever since then, e-auction has been the only mode available for disposal of the excavated iron ore. The said arrangement has worked out satisfactorily so far. The situation that was prevalent in the region prior to the year 2011, has now changed for the better," it added.
The bench said it needs to relax the order passed in September 2011, against the backdrop of various steps taken by the government. "Having regard to the course correction that has taken place, the regeneration post the ruinous damage caused to the environment and the various steps taken by the government, we are of the opinion that the order passed on September 23, 2011 deserves to be relaxed," it said.
Noting that consecutive e-auctions conducted by the monitoring committee have been receiving a poor response and sale of iron ore even at the reserve price is dismally low, it said that records reveal that repeated attempts to resort to the e-auction process for the sale of already excavated iron ore mined in the three Karnataka districts have not borne any fruitful results.
"As a consequence thereof, large stock of iron ore, including sub-grade iron ore, is lying unused. As on March 31, 2022, the stocks available in category 'A' and 'B' mines is stated to be 82,98,130.5 MT. The stocks available in the auctioned category 'C' mines as on the above date is 12,25,100.5 MTs. The stock in respect of e-auction category 'A' and category 'B' expired leases is 2,33,126.73 MTs and in mining leases outside the districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur, is 93,181 MT. The closing balance of iron ore available in all the mines across the state of Karnataka as on March 31, 2022, adds up to 11,94,783.93 MT," it added.
The top court has scheduled the plea for hearing on lifting the ceiling on extraction of iron ore for consideration in the second week of July. It also sought a view of an oversight authority appointed in April this year.
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