Iron ore mining operations have been restarted in Karnataka's Bellary and Chitradurga districts, a year after these were suspended, following a Supreme Court directive. After securing all statutory approvals, two Category A mines have resumed mining, offering hope of regular iron ore supply to the ore-starved steel industry.
According to officials from the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (Fimi), two mining lessees, R Praveen Chandra in Chitradurga and B Kumar Gowda in Bellary, have commenced mining. Nadeem Minerals, which has a mine in Bellary, is likely to restart mining next week. Together, these mines would bring about 1.5 million tonnes (mt) of iron ore to the auction platform in about two weeks.
In addition to these, another lessee, VESCO, is likely to secure the necessary approvals to commence mining in a week, FIMI officials said.
On September 3, the Supreme Court had allowed 18 Category A mines to restart operations. Mineral Enterprises, the first mining company to secure all clearances, ran operations at its mine in Chitradurga for a month and extracted about 35,000 tonnes, before shutting operations, as its lease expired on October 6.
Mining had been stopped in Karnataka in July 2011, following a Supreme Court order. Earlier, a central empowered committee (CEC) had found illegalities in the operations of several mining companies. However, the court had allowed the e-auction of about 25 mt of iron ore from the stockpile to help the steel industry tide over the crisis.
Based on a CEC report, the Supreme Court, in its order on September 2, 2011, allowed the monthly auctions of 1.5 mt of iron ore from stockpiles in the state. It also allowed public sector mining giant NMDC to carry out operations at its mines in Bellary district and extract up to one mt per month.
After a court directive, a three-member monitoring committee was set up to supervise the e-auctions. This comprised Deepak Sharma, additional principal chief conservator of forests; H R Srinivasa, director, Department of Mines and Geology and U V Singh, chief conservator of forests.
The court also appointed MSTC to conduct the auction. Since September 2011, about 33 mt of ore has been auctioned and sold to steel companies in Karnataka. These companies include JSW Steel, BMM Ispat, Kalyani Steels and Kirloskar Ferrous Industries. About 14 mt of ore from Bellary, seven mt from Chitradurga and four mt from Tumkur were auctioned. The court, however, restricted the buyers from exporting the ore.