Saturday, March 27, 2010

All is not Well at Belekeri, the Ore Export Hub at Karwar

The construction of jetties by iron ore exporters at Belekeri port allegedly in violation of Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) rules is going on unabated. With iron ore export from the port increasing rapidly, the number of exporters is also going up. These exporters have been building their own jetties at the port for berthing the barges, which carry the iron ore fines from the jetty to the ships anchored miles away from the port. In fact, the Ports Department permits the exporters to build jetty and allots the site on lease. The exporters reclaim the sea to build the jetties. In the process they allegedly violate the CRZ rules. It may be noted that iron ore export at Belekeri was closed by the government last year on the grounds that the exporters had encroached even the government land for stacking the ore at the port. However, one of the exporters secured stay against the government order from the Supreme Court and the export activities have continued. According to Ganesh, the Port Director, whenever illegal constructions at the port were found, notices had been served on the erring exporters to stop the work. Sometimes, the exporters commence building jetties without valid permission from the department. The department even does not hesitate to lodge a complaint against such exporters, he added. Video
It remains a mystery as to how the exporters dare build the jetties violating CRZ rules under the nose of the authorities, people wonder. A social worker said whenever officials were asked about the incidents of CRZ rules’ violation at the port, they first pretend ignorance stating that the exporters might have got the permission to build the jetties from the Centre itself. When they are told that the Port Department has initiated action against the exporters for illegal construction, they wake up and say they would investigate the matter. Before the officials could take action, the construction is completed, he alleged. As far as political leaders are concerned, they raise hue and cry over encroachment of government land and CRZ violation by the exporters, whenever they visit the port. But they become silent the moment they leave the port, it is alleged. Unless the government is serious, no one can stop exporters from building jetties the way they like, people say.
Source - Express Buzz

State Human Rights Commission chairman, S R Nayak, expressed anger and resentment at the way the ore companies had violated law and encroached upon the sea without any permission, at Belekeri port near there.
During his visit to Belekeri port in Ankola taluk near here on Friday March 26, Nayak questioned the port officials as to why they had not obstructed Coastal Services Company from unathorizedly dumping sand and stones into the sea for creating a jetty, without any prior licence or permission.
“For building a jetty, permission of the union environment and forest ministry, in addition to the Coastal Regulary Zone approval, are required. But Coastal Services Company does not hold any of these permissions. You are sitting and watching quiety, as they dump mud and stones into the sea. The ore companies have even been trying to invade the sea, and I know that they draw support from the rulers,” Nayak remarked.
He instructed the port officials to submit a detailed report on the construction of jetty in violation of law, stipulating that the report should contain details of land area encroached upon, licences if any the company holds etc. “This report will be placed before the government. If the government fails to take action, the Commission will file complaint in the High Court or Supreme Court under Human Rights Protection Act 1993,” he added.
Source -

The SC is firm on stopping illegal mining.'
Two events of this week have struck a double blow to the powerful Reddy brothers of Bellary. On Monday, the supreme court ordered a stay on the mining operations of the Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. In the second event the same day, a team of officers from the state forest department raided the Belekeri port in Karwar and seized five lakh tonnes of iron ore worth Rs 150 crore.

The supreme court’s shut-down of the operations of OMC and its appointment of a high-level team headed by the Survey of India (SoI) officers to ascertain if the OMC had mined in areas outside those allowed by their licences, and whether they had violated the forest conservation laws is bad news for the Karnataka ministers, Janardhana Reddy, Karunakara Reddy and their associate, B Sriramulu.

The forest department is aware of the ownership of the iron ore which they say was transported to Belekeri with the help of fake permits, the raid suggested a new resolve on the part of the department to check illegal mining and wanton rape of forest areas. It does not bode well for the mining lords of Bellary who are facing charges of blatant violations in protected forest areas, extending mining areas allotted to them illegally and even moving boundary pillars between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to facilitate their actions.

The story of the Reddys is the story of malaise in Indian body politic. On the strength of their political clout rooted in their wealth, that has spanned the two states and extends to Delhi, the Reddy brothers managed to extract power to virtually rule Bellary district as an autarky and influence the cabinet decisions pertaining to forests and mining. That power was born out of their funding of the BJP’s election campaign and later buying up MLAs to bring the government into power. But they overestimated their clout in holding the Yeddyurappa government to ransom in Karnataka and in trying to influence the succession following the death of Y S Rajashekhar Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. While the Yeddyurappa government, aware of its pathetic dependence on the flock of MLAs controlled by Reddys is still supine, the Rosaiah government in the neighbouring state has decided to go after them, seeking a CBI inquiry into OMC operations. Hubris leads to downfall, and the Reddys will not be an exception to that rule.
Source - Deccan Herald

Powerful Bellary mine lords are raking in crores in ill-gotten profits by clandestinely transporting thousands of tonnes of iron ore from mines to a port near Karwar for export. The elaborate illegal enterprise includes the printing of fake road permits to avoid paying tax, forging the forest department's no objection certificates (NOC) to show the iron ore was not mined from a forest area, and avoiding royalty worth several crores. The black economy goes beyond mere tax evasion and results in a sort of a parallel government for mining, transportation and export operations. This has coincided with a rise in iron ore prices in the international market.
A raid was conducted on February 20 by the Lok Ayukta, Karnataka's anticorruption bureau. This exposed the illegal operations. Despite that, iron ore- laden trucks continue to ply between the Bellary mines and Bellikeri port near Karwar in Uttara Kannada district without being checked by the police or regional transport authorities. The Lok Ayukta found that this movement of iron ore had resulted in a loss of Rs 1.3 crore to the transport department alone in the last 30 days because road tax had not been paid. The shocking revelation was made during a raid on the premises of three iron ore exporters - Adani Shipping, Salgaocar Shipping and Mallikarjun Shipping - in the coastal district of Uttara Kannada last week. The Lok Ayukta has withheld the names of the mining companies involved in this racket as investigations are on. " It is shocking to note that the miners are printing their own road permits and NOCs. Upon verification, we found out that the road permits and NOCs and the government seals on them were counterfeit.
The signatures on these documents have been forged. Besides, royalty has not been paid to the government for the ore transported to the port from the mines," said a senior Lok Ayukta official. Investigators have not yet computed the total loss to the government from the non payment of royalty and various other taxes on mining and export profits. What the investigators do know is that several mining companies are printing their own road permits instead of getting them from the transport department. They are also printing NOCs carrying the stamp of the forest department to allow the transport of iron ore to the Bellikeri port. In the process, the mine lords evade the hefty mineral royalty that they should pay the government.
But, more serious is the total subversion of the government by the mine lords. " About 48,000 tonnes of iron ore was transported from various mines in Bellary district to Bellikeri port in the last 30 days using counterfeit road permits and NOCs. The miners have failed to provide weekly reports on the payment of royalty. We have seized all documents and computers from the three shipping companies. We impounded the remaining stock of iron ore," the officials said. But, investigators could have only found a part of the stock while other miners could have smuggled larger quantities of iron ore during this period. Clandestine movement of iron ore takes place in Karnataka whenever the prices in the international market go up. The state accounts for 30 per cent of the total exports (95 million tons in 2008-09) from the country. About 85 per cent of the iron ore exporters in India rely on the spot trading market against long- term leases. During the first week of February, for instance, the price of high grade iron ore (64 per cent and above ferrous content) in the spot trading market had touched $ 126 (Rs 5,807) per tonne, up from $ 74 (Rs 3,410) per tonne in September 2009, according to the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries.
"During the same period, the clandestine movement of iron ore was reported between the mines in Bellary district and the Bellikeri port. What has shocked us is that the trucks are not being checked by the Regional Transport authorities even after the raids," Lok Ayukta officials said. They suspect the involvement of the officers of the Regional Transport department in this racket. "The Regional Transport authorities are supposed to verify the documents of every truck at the district check post. They could have ascertained whether the road permits and NOCs were genuine. But it seems they were deliberately overlooked by the Regional Transport authorities," the officials said.
For every truck transporting iron ore, the miners have to pay road permit fee to the government. As iron ore mining is carried out on the fringes of the forests in Bellary district, the miners have to obtain an NOC from the forest department. If the forest department finds out that ore has been mined from the forests, the stock will be impounded. This is why an NOC is required to show that the ore was not mined from a forest area. Besides, the miners have to pay a royalty of Rs 80 to Rs 140 per tonne of iron ore extracted depending on the grade. A weekly report on the royalty paid has to be submitted to the mines and geology department. Once these formalities are completed, the documents have to be handed over to the ore transporting companies.
Senior BJP leader and Karnataka's transport minister R. Ashoka said he was not aware of the findings of the Lok Ayukta.  Normally, the Lok Ayukta submits its report to the government after conducting all investigations. We go through it in detail and take action against the culprits. If mine owners are violating any rule during the transportation of iron ore, we will look into it. Similarly, the mines and geology department will examine violations, if any, by the miners," he said. This is not for the first time that this kind of racket has been detected. Last year, the district conservator of forests detected iron ore mining inside core areas of reserve forests. But he was transferred. Four inspectors of motor vehicles ( IMVs) of the regional transport authority in Bellary were transferred after they impounded trucks transporting iron ore without proper documents. Evidently, the mine lords make large enough profits to buy political patronage.
Source - India Today
Bellary district Forest Department sources said that a team of forest officials swooped down on the Belekeri port and seized 500,000 tonnes of iron ore worth INR 150 crore. A team, led by Deputy Conservator of Forests Mr R Gokul, Assistant Conservator of Forests Mr Narendra Hittalamakki and Range Forest Officer Mr CG Naik conducted the raid. An FIR was filed by the team in Ankola Police Station against the Conservator of Belekeri port who refused to cooperate with the forest officials. Last month, some Lokayukta officials, led by Mr Uday Veer Singh, had raided the Belekeri port and seized documents from three shipping agencies. A forest official, on condition of anonymity, said that there was a big racket spreading from Bellary to Ankola where ore is transported using fake permits and passes of Mines and Geology and Forest departments. These passes are printed at Bellary and Ankola. Forest officials also sought the direction of the court to restrain the port authorities from exporting the cargo seized during the raid, without permission of forest officials. Several million tonnes of the ore was extracted from the forest areas of Bellary and Hospet region and exported to China. It was brought to the port by using fake permits, an official alleged. (Sourced from
Source - Steel Guru

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