(Adds recent court decisions)
May 16 (Reuters) - India, in its crusade against illegal mining, has over the past few years choked its iron ore output and exports so hard that many companies had to give up on the sector.
India’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered the temporary closure of nearly half of the iron ore mines in top producing state Odisha due to non-renewal of years-old leases, in a blow to steel mills that depend on high-quality ore from the state.
Following is a timeline of key developments in India’s iron ore sector since Karnataka state introduced its shipments ban:
July 26 - Karnataka state, governed by the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, bans shipments of iron ore. The state government had faced pressure from the ruling Congress-led federal government to clamp down on illegal mining. Exporters in the state subsequently challenged the ban.
September - Iron ore exports post their sharpest monthly fall in nearly two years after the ban on Karnataka, dropping 47 percent from a year earlier to 3.03 million tonnes.
Nov. 19 - Karnataka’s high court upholds the ban on shipments. State governments can decide on shipments or movements of resources, but only the federal government can agree a ban on exports.
Jan. 25 - India’s state-owned railways announce an increase in freight costs on iron ore for export of 50 percent to 1,500 rupees ($24) per tonne.
Feb. 28 - India hikes export duties on iron ore to 20 percent from 5 percent for fines and from 15 percent for lumps in its annual budget.
March 3 - Freight rates are hiked again, this time by 100 rupees per tonne to 1,600 rupees.
March 30 - Indian Railways says it will impose a “busy season” charge of 7 percent on iron ore freight rates from April 1 to June 30 and from Oct. 1 to March 31. The charge was estimated to equate to about 150-200 rupees per tonne.
April 5 - The Supreme Court orders Karnataka state to lift its ban on iron ore shipments from April 20.
June 27 - Iron ore exporter Mineral Enterprises Ltd says it will ask the Supreme Court to uphold the lifting of the Karnataka ban, which has been delayed by an inquiry into illegal mining.
July 27 - An independent inquiry implicates B.S. Yediyurappa, a prominent Indian opposition politician and chief minister of Karnataka, in a $3.6 billion illegal iron ore mining scandal.
July 29 - The Supreme Court imposes an interim ban on mining in the district of Bellary, an iron-ore rich region in Karnataka, on concerns over environment degradation.
July 31 - Yediyurappa resigns as Karnataka chief minister.
Aug. 5 - The Supreme Court partially lifts the iron ore mining ban in Bellary district, allowing state-run NMDC to mine up to 1 million tonnes a month from Aug. 6.
Aug. 26 - The top court expands the mining ban to Tumkur and Chitradurga, two districts in Karnataka.
Dec. 12 - India’s top iron ore producing state, Odisha, stops issuing export permits for iron ore cargoes shipped via two small ports, Gangavaram and Kakinada.
Dec. 30 - India hikes export duties on iron ore fines and lumps to 30 percent.
April 20 - The top court partially allows the restart of Category A mines or mines of more than 50 hectares in Karnataka.
Sept. 3 - The top court allows 18 mines to resume iron ore mining in Karnataka state after a suspension of over a year.
Sept. 11 - The state of Goa halts iron ore mining after an expert panel formed by the federal government found “serious illegalities and irregularities” in mining operations.
Sept. 12 - Following the mining ban, India suspends environmental clearances given to 93 iron ore mines in Goa.
Oct. 5 - India’s Supreme Court suspends iron ore transport in Goa.
Nov. 7 - Tata Steel, India’s largest private steelmaker, says it expects to amicably resolve the issue of a large fine imposed by the Odisha government for failing to stick to mining norms in the state. Media reports said the Odisha government has fined Tata Steel and other firms for exceeding the annual limit on iron ore extraction from its mines in the state.
April 18 - India’s Supreme Court gives conditional go-ahead to mining in Karnataka but strips about 49 mines of their leases because they had been mining illegally.
Nov. 11 - Supreme Court maintains ban on iron ore mining in Goa but allows the sale of 11.46 million tonnes of material that sat in stockpiles.
March 26 - Iron ore production in Goa, usually India’s top exporting state of the raw ingredient for steel, should be capped at 20 million tonnes a year when an 18-month old mining ban is lifted, a court-appointed panel says, less than half peak output and curbing potential shipments to key buyer China.
April 21 - India’s Supreme Court lifts a 19-month old ban on mining in Goa, its top iron ore-exporting state, but limits annual output in the state at 20 million tonnes.
April 22 - Mining in India’s top iron ore-exporting state of Goa is likely to restart in January next year once all companies have obtained environment and forest clearances from the federal government, a state government source says.
May 16 - India’s Supreme Court orders the temporary closure of nearly half of the iron ore mines in top producing state Odisha due to non-renewal of years-old leases, in a blow to local steel mills that depend heavily on high-quality ore from the state. (Compiled by Manolo Serapio Jr. in Singapore and Krishna N Das in New Delhi; Editing by Anand Basu)