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India’s top court lifts ore mining ban in Goa Supreme Court imposes several conditions

NEW DELHI, April 21, (AFP): India’s top court on Monday lifted an 18-month ban on iron ore mining in the state of Goa, which had been imposed over allegedly corrupt practices that were harming the environment. But the Supreme Court imposed several conditions on the resumption of mining in the western state, including setting a cap of 20 million tonnes per year on the amount of ore that can be mined.

The three-judge bench also banned mining within one kilometre of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state, which has an important tourism industry. It also asked the government to identify other ecosensitive areas that should remain off limits.

The government must also establish an expert panel to report to the court on future maximum annual output and other issues within six months, said the bench headed by Justice A.K. Patnaik. The ban was imposed in September 2012 to clamp down on illegal mining and prevent environmental destruction in the state, which is one of the country’s top iron ore producers.

A government-backed inquiry found that illegal iron ore mining in the state had cost the public coffers huge sums in lost royalties. The ban has affected India’s largest private iron ore producer Sesa Sterlite, the main subsidiary of mining conglomerate Vedanta, among others.

Last year the Supreme Court allowed more than 100 mines in the southern state of Karnataka to resume operations after a suspension of more than a year due to environmental concerns. Much of the ore that was illicitly mined in Goa and Karnataka is thought to have been shipped to China and other east Asian countries to make steel.

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