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The Supreme Court Friday ordered the suspension of all mining operations in Karnataka’s Bellary region.

“Mining (is) suspended with immediate effect till further orders,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia and including Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Aftab Alam.

“The greed of a few is making everyone suffer,” the bench added.Noting the shocking state of the area and the extent of the environmental damage, the bench said the Karnataka government should take responsibility for restoring the ecological balance there by asking the mining companies to pay for the clean up required.

The bench further asked the central environment and the forest ministry to come out with an interim report on the requirement of iron ore for the steel industry.”The government should explain how much iron ore is required by industry, what percentage of this is met by Bellary, and how much steel produced in India is exported,” the bench said.

It sought the report within a week.The questions raised by the bench were similar to the report of the Karnataka Lokayukta N. Santosh Hedge that held Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, his family and four ministers among others guilty in a Rs.16,000-crore mining scandal.

In his report, submitted Wednesday, Hegde said that politicians like Yeddyurappa had colluded with mining companies to sanction violation of basic laws.Bellary has 148 mines, of which 98 are located in forest areas and are at the centre of a row over environmental problems. At least 40 leases for mining in forests had been declared void.

The Supreme Court, after a series of Public Interest Litigation petitions (PILs), asked a special committee to tour Bellary.

After its survey in March, the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee told the judges illegal mining in Karnataka had taken place on a colossal scale not seen before.


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