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 In a significant order aimed at halting further devastation of the Aravali range due to rampant mining, the Supreme Court Friday banned mining in 157 out of 261 mines in the region and ordered comprehensive satellite photography of the mining-ravaged region.

“All these years, as far as possible, we have been trying to balance developmental works with forest and environmental conservation. But when we have reached in 2009, we have seen total mining leases,” said a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, while halting mining in 157 mines, spread over 15,000 square km in 15 districts of Rajasthan.

“It has led to a fatal impact on macro-level. There is total devastation of the forest,” observed the bench, which also included Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice Aftab Alam.

While ordering satellite imagery of the Aravali hills, the bench said the project would be jointly executed by the Forest Survey of India and the Rajasthan government in consultation and coordination with the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee mandated with the rask of assisting the apex court in preserving the flora and fauna of the country and save it from degradation.

The bench said the project would be Funded by Compensatory Afforestation Fund Managemnat and Planning Authority, created by corpus collected for diversion of forestland for non-forest uses.

It said the state would spend Rs 5 crore out of Rs 50 crore that had been given to it from the CAMPA fund as per an apex court order on August 14, 2009.

The bench ordered suspension of mining in those mines by those who had applied for renewal of their licenses and their plea was pending with the state government. The bench, however, allowed the remaining 104 out of total 261 mines whose licenses had been renewed by the state government.

The bench ordered halting of mining in 157 mines after casting aside diverse interpretations of its earlier order, dated Dec 16, 2002, by various parties, including the state government and the miners.

The order laid down certain stipulations for renewing the licenses and allowing the continued mining. The state government contended that the 2002 order merely restrained it from granting new licenses for mining and not from renewing them.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, appointed by the court to assist it in adjudication of the green issues, contended that the 2002 order was a blanket ban on both renewal and grant of new licenses.

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