Top Court directs Karnataka’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests to undertake detailed scrutiny of all mines where data as well as Reclamation & Rehabilitation Plans have not been submitted
Justices Sanjiv Khanna, M.M. Sundresh & Bela M. Trivedi [14-03-2024]





LE Correspondent


New Delhi, April 1, 2024: The Supreme Court has recently directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests for the State of Karnataka to undertake a detailed scrutiny and survey of all mines, where data and Reclamation & Rehabilitation Plans have not been submitted. The Top Court held that the PCCF, Karnataka will be entitled to procure assistance from domain experts, specialized agencies or institution.


The 3-Judge Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice M.M. Sundresh & Justice Bela M. Trivedi was considering the applications relating to mining activities being undertaken in Districts - Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur in Karnataka. In 2009, the petitioner - Samaj Parivartana Samudaya had filed a writ petition praying for this Court’s intervention on grounds of the illegality of such mining activities and consequent harm caused to the environment. This Court intervened and has passed several directions and orders.


The Top Court had fixed a district-level production ceiling for all mining leases in the Districts – Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga. These caps were enhanced from time to time. The final enhancement of production ceilings was done and a production ceiling of 35 MMT for Bellary District and 15 MMT for the Tumkar and Chitradurga Districts was specified. The district-level production ceilings apply to Category A and Category B mining leases. Category ‘C’ mining leases were cancelled and were thereafter e-auctioned, and hence are under a different legal regime. Parallelly, in its report, the CEC fixed the guidelines for the preparation and/or implementation of the R&R Plans as a pre-condition to the resumption of mining in the three districts. This was done given the devastation and degradation of the environment on account of unregulated and illegal mining activities.


The Bench has now requested the Central Empowered Committee, together with the Monitoring Committee and aid and advice of the Oversight Authority, to undertake a complete exercise in the three districts, and the respective mining leases situated therein, and submit a report. While undertaking the said exercise, the Bench held that the CEC will be entitled to take help and assistance of the scientific domain experts who will examine data, including environmental pollution data available/recorded in the districts from time to time.


Moreover, the CEC, the Monitoring Committee and the Oversight Authority have been asked to examine whether any form of regulation like e- auctioning is required to be put in place for the sale of the mined material.


One more issue before the Bench was whether a 10% levy imposed on the sale of the iron ore and transferred to the SPV for implementing the Comprehensive Environment Plans for the Mining Impact Zone [CEPMIZ], should be discontinued. It was pointed out that Rs.24,464 crores are available to the SPV, namely, KMERC, which is to prepare and implement the CEPMIZ to mitigate the environmental damage in the Mining Impact Zone (MIA) in the three districts.


It was noticed by the Bench that in respect of 51 Category C mining leases, ICFRE had approved R&R Plans of 28 leases. In respect of the remaining 23 leases, inputs had not been provided to ICFRE to approve the R&R Plans. It was also stated that 23 lessees of Category C had not submitted any data. In three cases, R&R Plans submitted had not been approved by the CEC.


The Bench opined that it won’t be appropriate to withdraw the 10% levy as the CEPMIZ Plan is still at the initial stage of execution. The proposed plan was provisionally approved by the Court only vide an order dated 21.04.2022. Objections and suggestions which were invited and are pending consideration by the Oversight Authority.


As per the Bench, certain directions were required to be given for preparation of R&R Plans and execution thereof in respect of Category C leases, which were terminated/cancelled, but thereafter no progress had been made for submission of the plans or execution or implementation of R&R Plans.


Considering such circumstances, the Bench held, “Accordingly, we deem it appropriate to direct the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (For short, “PCCF”), State of Karnataka to undertake a detailed scrutiny and survey of all Category C mines, where data and R&R Plans have not been submitted and submit R&R Plans after conducting their scrutiny and survey. PCCF, Karnataka will be entitled to procure assistance from domain experts, specialized agencies or institutions. The cost incurred will be paid in the interim from the funds available with the SPV. The R&R Plans will be thereupon implemented and executed either through KMERC or if more appropriate, through any other agency, which may be nominated for this purpose after moving an application before this Court by the CEC, the Monitoring Committee, and the Oversight Authority. The directions given above will equally apply to other cases of Categories A and B mines, where R&R Plans have not been submitted or approved.”


The Bench concluded the matter by further observing, “The amount incurred for R&R Plans must be collected from the erstwhile Category C lease holders or the Category A and B lease holders, as appropriate. The amount will be collected as arrears of land revenue. However, no amount shall be refunded to the new lease holders. The amount collected will be deposited with the SPV.”

Add a Comment