New Delhi: The Supreme Court today restrained 19 mines from carrying out mining operations and transportation of iron ore in the Bellary region of Karnataka.
A special forest bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia also said it would pass an order on another 68 mines which have been indicted by the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for violating rules in mining operations.
"We make it clear that there would be no mining or transportation of mined materials (in 19 mines) till further order," the bench said in an interim order.
The bench, however, did not pass any order against 68 other mines, which have approached the Karnataka High Court.
It directed the amicus curie A D N Rao to file transfer petition after getting list of the companies which had approached the high court so that those cases could also be heard by it.
The bench passed the order on the basis of reports of CEC in which it has been stated that large-scale illegal mining was on in Karnataka particularly in the Bellary district in connivance with officials and public representatives.
The CEC had on April 15 filed its report before the apex court in which it had said that there has been illegal mining on colossal scale in the state, particularly in Bellary district with "active" connivance of officials of the departments concerned and also public representatives.
The apex court had in February directed the CEC to conduct a probe over allegations of illegal mining in the state and submit a report within six weeks.
The court's direction had come after a petition filed by an NGO had submitted that as per Karnataka Lokayukta report, mining activities were being carried not only illegally but also in the areas categorised as forest land.
Earlier, the bench had directed the CEC to probe the Andhra Pradesh side of the Bellary region.
NGO Samaj Parivartan Samudaya had alleged that the governments of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had failed to stop the rampant illegal mining of iron ore, which adversely affected the livelihood of local people, especially the rural poor.
It had alleged that illegal mining had resulted in "an encroachment of 1,114.8 hectares of forest land in Karnataka."
It had said, "The Union of India through both the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Ministry of Mines has not exercised enough checks and balances to curtail illegal mining in the two states."
The NGO had submitted that the Lokayukta report had highlighted that forest area to the extent over 2,000 square kilometres was available for mining by private entities despite specific objections raised by the Forest Department.