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SC Defers Iron Ore Case Hearing Till Jan 20

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Supreme Court has put off until January 20 hearing an appeal against its partial ban of iron ore mining in a key producing state, possibly delaying resumption of full supplies from a region contributing a quarter of the country's exports.

India is the world's No. 3 exporter of iron ore, after Australia and Brazil, with any change in supplies from Karnataka where mining is now partially banned impacting global prices of the steel-making commodity.

Earlier this year, the court banned iron ore mining in three districts of Karnataka citing environmental concerns and asked a federal government body to carry out an environmental impact assessment.

It later allowed state-run NMDC to mine up to one million tonne per month from its captive mines in the state while making a final decision on the matter.

The government body, the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), has reportedly recommended restricting iron ore mining in the state to 30 million tonnes per year for local consumption.

On Friday, the court asked petitioners against its ban to go through the ICFRE report and come back for a hearing on Jan. 20, Supreme Court officials told Reuters.

The court had banned mining in Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts.

While iron ore mining remains partially banned in Karnataka, exports of the steel-making material have yet to resume from the state, despite a removal of a ban on movement of the commodity by the Supreme Court earlier this year.

The Karnataka government had imposed that ban in July 2010.

The government is against any ban on iron ore exports to curb illegal mining and prefers supplies to go first to domestic users.