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Karnataka to prevent export of seized illegal iron ore

Bangalore, June 24 (IANS) Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa Thursday asserted that his government would not allow export of illegal iron ore seized by the Lok Ayukta (ombudsman) from Karwar port in March.

‘We will not allow export of the illegal iron ore that was seized and kept at the Belekari port near Karwar. I have instructed my officers to keep a strict vigil on it in the stockyard,’ Yeddyurappa told reporters here.

Karnataka ombudsman N. Santosh Hegde cited the disappearance of about 500,000 tonnes of the seized iron ore from the Belekari port recently as one of the reasons for his resignation from the post Wednesday.

Though the total quantity of illegal iron ore seized is estimated to be 3.5 million (35 lakh) tonnes, Hegde hinted that it could be about five million (50 lakh) tonnes.

The state government also informed the companies (about 10) that they would not be permitted to export the seized iron ore, as investigation was still on into the legality of the stock that was transported from the rich iron ore belt of Bellary district in north Karnataka.

‘We have written to the union government for action against those customs officials who had facilitated in exporting the missing iron ore. We are also taking against the port officials who were involved in the act,’ Yeddyurappa said.

Referring to the charge by Hegde that a cabinet minister had recommended suspension of a deputy conservator of forests (R. Gokul), who was instrumental in seizing the unaccounted iron ore, Yeddyurappa clarified that no such recommendation was made by the minister.

‘There is no such recommendation made by the minister to the chief secretary. I am ready to release the letter to the media for evidence. We have no intention to suspend any officer. In fact, the state has asked the officer to file a petition in the Karnataka High Court against allowing the export of the seized iron ore,’ Yeddyurappa pointed out.

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