The Supreme Court has decided to lift the ban on 18 Category A mines in Karnataka. However, it will take a year to complete with the clearance formalities, and also hope for revival of the steel market, internationally by then!
The Supreme Court’s decision to lift the ban on 18 “Category A” mines was well received in the industry as it would help revive the iron ore export from Karnataka.
However, the work, actually, cannot commence in these mines immediately but can do so only after implementing the land reclamation and rehabilitation plan, statutory clearances, environment, pollution control boards and other related approvals from various departments concerned. These will probably take several months to accomplish.
In the meantime, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) approved by the Supreme Court has recommended that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) be entrusted with the task of investigating all the illegalities that have occurred at the Belekeri port.
Further reports on the subject in the media indicates that as many as 5 lakh truck trips are estimated to have been involved in carting the iron ore illegally to the port, “right under the nose of every one”. As much as 50.79 lakh tonnes have been exported out of this port!
A great number of people have been involved at every stage of these trucks moving without any hindrance under the very eyes of law enforcing officials. There have been flagrant violations of all sorts of rules in this unauthorized and illegal transportation of iron ore for a full stretch of
400 km from Bellary to Belekeri without being stopped and checked for legal documents for carrying the ore. It will become clear when CBI completes its investigation and submits its reports.
Meantime, in due course, life will slowly return to normalcy in the affected areas of Bellary, Chittradurga and Tumkur districts in Karnataka. It will revive the employment opportunities to 75,000 to 100,000 people involved in the iron ore industry, both directly and indirectly.
In fact, as a sequel to the Supreme Courts' decision, some of the Category A miners have began their work on related compliance issues. They have been their activities relating to obtaining of clearances so that work can commence as soon permission is obtained after completing all the required formalities.
However, the world market situation for iron ore has taken a nose-dive in recent months.
Australia is the world's fourth largest producer, but has begun to curtail its mining operation due to falling prices, particularly after China has slowed down its imports. Iron ore is also
Australia's single largest export and the international price has touched the rock bottom price of $89 per dry metric tonne, which was prevailing in October 2009.
Indian supplies to China has also received a setback as exports from Karnataka mines stopped some 18 months ago and it will resume probably by middle of 2013 when exports may be able to make an attempt at recovery. In any case, at least for the Category A mines, it will take this much time to complete with the clearance formalities, and also hope for revival of the steel market, internationally, by then!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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