NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Supreme Court has suspended iron ore transport in Goa and asked for a report into illegal mining in the state in four weeks, Justice Aftab Alam said, a move that could further delay a resumption of mining and exports.
Goa is India's second-biggest iron ore producing state. It produces more than 50 million tonnes annually and exports almost all of it, making it also the top exporter.
"It is very unfortunate ... Goa will take another at least 18 months for mines to re-open," said Basant Poddar, vice-president of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries.
In early September, the Goa government suspended mining. The central overnment had also revoked its environmental approvals to Goa mines temporarily.
In neighbouring Karnataka, which was the second biggest producer of the steel-making ingredient, the top Court allowed another 18 mines to restart operations in early September, which was expected to add 5 million tonnes per year in addition to the National Minerals Development Corporation's 12 million tonnes.
The Supreme Court had banned mining in Karnataka last year.
India's iron ore exports, which mainly head to China, have already halved because of government taxes aimed at keeping output for the domestic steel industry and efforts to stop illegal mining.
(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Siddesh Mayenkar, editing by William Hardy)