Bengaluru, June 19 (IANS) Karnataka is waiting for the Supreme Court approval to auction 15 more iron ore mines, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on Friday.
“We have submitted an action plan to the Supreme Court for its approval to auction 15 mines that were classified by its appointed panel under C category,” he said at a meeting with mining firms and other stakeholders.
The state government has also submitted a Rs.2,000 crore action plan to the apex court for environment restoration work in the three mineral-rich districts of Ballari, Chitradurga and Tumakuru.
“We have set up a non-profit body, the Karnataka Mining Environment Restoration Corporation, to develop mining impact zones in the three districts,” Siddaramaiah said at an interactive session, organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).
The restoration programme will be the first of its kind in the country.
The environmental protection plan will address socio-economic issues, including education, health and nutrition, water supply and sanitation, employment and training and infrastructure.
Industry representatives, however, differed with the state government’s estimates of the environmental damage, as only five out of 15 mines in C category have good ore reserves.
Though the apex court permitted the state government in April 2013 to allow extraction of 30 million tonnes of iron ore per annum from its reserves, 26 firms could only produce 21.23 million tonnes in 2014-15.
Two state-run mining firms National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd (NMDC) and Mysore Minerals Ltd also contributed to the production.
“We have set a target of extracting 26 million tonnes of ore in this fiscal. We will boost production if the apex court permits us (existing mines) to increase capacity,” JSW Steel deputy managing director Vinod Nowal told reporters on the margins.
As the user industry comprising steel and allied units depending on iron ore from the state mines require 35 million tonnes per annum, it was forced to import six million tonnes last fiscal to bridge the demand-supply gap from local mines.
“We may have to import 3-4 million tonnes of ore in this fiscal too to overcome shortage for our plants,” Nowal added.
According to the Indian Bureau of Mines, the southern state has 2,269 million tonnes of hematite iron ore reserves, which is fourth largest in the country.
The apex court permitted resumption of mining operations in the state after its appointed central empowered committee (CEC) classified mines into A, B and C categories and mandated miners to first implement the resettlement and rehabilitation plan to protect the environment and the local people from the ravaged of mining activity in the region.