New Delhi, Jan 24 (Agencies): Iron ore exports in December have gone down by 24.64 per cent to 9.69 million tonnes, continuing its declining trend for the sixth consecutive month.

According to the data compiled by industry body FIMI, the country had shipped 12.86 million tonnes of iron ore, a vital steel-making raw material, during the same period last year.

"The industry has been suffering from quite some time now due to the ban imposed by Karnataka in July. We hope that the issue will get resolved by next month, when Supreme Court hears the matter," Federation of Indian Mineral Industries' (FIMI) Secretary General R K Sharma told news agencies.

He added that "industry is expecting that the Karnataka government will put in place a mechanism to check illegal mining by mid-February, as per the apex court directions."

Last week, the Supreme Court asked the state government to either notify the new law against illegal mining within two weeks or lift its order banning transportation of iron ore meant for export, saying that the ban cannot be sustained indefinitely.

Earlier, the Karnataka government had banned issue of permits to transport iron ore and other minerals for export purposes for six months pending a legislation to curb illegal mining. That period will end in January 2011 end.

When asked about the reports that even Orissa government is considering to impose ban, particularly on inter-state trade, Sharma said, "this goes counter to the idea of India being a nation. This issue falls in the domain of Centre, so state government can not do it".

On the outlook, Sharma said floods in Australia has widened the demand-supply gap and till the situation improves there, prices will keep on going upwards.

"In this situation, the country would have immensely benefited had the ban not been imposed by Karnataka government," he added.

At present prices are hovering around USD 155-160 a tonne, he said.

For nine months ended December 31, 2010, iron ore exports fell by 17.02 per cent to 64.4 million tonnes against the year-ago figure of 77.60 million tonnes, the FIMI data said.

India, the third largest iron ore exporter, had produced 218 million tonnes of iron ore in the last fiscal and exported almost half of it.

Of the total exports, more than 80 per cent had gone to China, the world's largest steel producer.