FIMI appeals supreme court to lift iron ore production limit in Ballari and Vijayanagara

Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) has approached the Supreme Court, seeking the removal of the maximum permissible annual production (MPAP) restriction on iron ore leases in Karnataka’s four districts — Bellary, Chitradurga, Tumkur, and Vijayanagara. The plea aims to review the decade-old restrictions imposed on iron ore extraction due to rampant illegal mining in the region.

In 2011, the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on iron ore mining in these districts, which was later lifted in 2012 with the introduction of production caps. FIMI now argues that the situation that led to these restrictions, described as an “extraordinary situation,” no longer exists. The organization highlights the implementation of a more robust legal and regulatory framework, an auction regime, and the Mining Surveillance System (MSS), which utilizes satellite monitoring to curb illegal mining.

FIMI points out the significant legal changes since the court’s orders in 2011 and 2012, including the introduction of the auction regime in 2015 and the establishment of MSS. The organization mentions the Supreme Court’s August 2022 order, which increased the district-wise annual ceiling on iron ore production, and the modification in May that allowed the direct sale and export of already excavated iron ore.

According to FIMI, the continuation of MPAP limitations is unnecessary, given the improvements in technology, increased exploration during mining, and the discovery of more reserves. The organization supports its argument by stating that there is a surplus of iron ore in India, as indicated by data from the Indian Bureau of Mines and the United States Geological Survey. FIMI also mentions the Government of India’s policy to promote steel recycling, alleviating concerns about the exploitation of restricted iron ore sources.

During a hearing on November 30, a special bench led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna considered FIMI’s application and requested responses from Karnataka and the Centre. The Supreme Court is expected to address the application in February 2024.

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