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Supreme Court cancels 88 renewed Goa mining licences; all activity to stop by March 16

The apex court has also asked the central government to start a fresh process of auction for mining companies in Goa-a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the renewal of mining leases was hasty and illegal.

twitter-logo BusinessToday.in        Last Updated: February 7, 2018  | 17:39 IST
Supreme Court cancels 88 renewed Goa mining licences; all activity to stop by March 16
Photo: Reuters

The Supreme Court has cancelled 88 mining leases in Goa that were renewed by the state's BJP government in 2015, just before the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act mandated the auction of mining leases. As per the ruling, all mining activity, involving the iron and manganese mines, will be allowed only till March 16. The apex court has also asked the central government to start a fresh process of auction for mining companies in Goa-a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the renewal of mining leases was hasty and illegal.

Back in 2012, mining in Goa had been banned following a Rs 35,000-crore illegal mining scam unearthed by a Judicial Commission appointed by the Union Mines Ministry, in which all the top mining companies were indicted. Between 2006 and 2011, sources say over 14 million tonnes of iron ore was illegally extracted and exported from Goa. That was 27% of total exports. The report submitted by Justice M.B. Shah Commission furthermore pointed to a politician-bureaucrat-mining companies nexus that included the then CM Digambar Kamat. The latter, who had also held the mines portfolio during the period when illegality took place, was chargesheeted by a Special Investigation Team of the Goa police last month.  

Following a Public Interest Litigation filed by Goa Foundation, a local NGO working on environment, in 2011, the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on all mining activities, which was subsequently lifted in April 2014. A year later, the State Government renewed all 88 mining leases-owned by the very same holders initially accused of illegal mining-for 20 years with retrospective effect from 2007. Goa Foundation again moved court challenging this renewal and emerged victorious. Given that the cancelled leases encompass nearly all companies operating in Goa, mining activity will soon come to a virtual standstill.

From an environmental point of view, this is good news because, as recently pointed out by senior geologist Prof. Ashoka Dessai, unless new reserves are located, the current high grade reserves of iron ore will not last for more than a decade.

 

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