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Goa temporarily suspends all mining operations

The Goa government has temporarily suspended operations of all the working mines in the state, pending verification of documents relating to mining activity and environmental clearances.

The Goa government has temporarily suspended operations of all the working mines in the state, pending verification of documents relating to mining activity and environmental clearances.

The order was issued late on Monday evening, a few days after an enquiry commission headed by Justice M.B. Shah exposed an illegal mining scam to the tune of Rs 35,000 crore in Goa's 90-odd operational mines.

The Shah Commission has indicted various state government agencies - namely the mines and geology department, forest department, pollution control board - as well as central government agencies, namely those functioning under the aegis of the union ministry for mines and environment and forests.

The order came a few minutes after mining activists claimed that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is also the mines minister, was "supporting" the tainted mining industry in the state.

"It is necessary in order to scrutinise clearances obtained by the mining lease holders and allowing continuation of mining without proper scrutiny and verification of requisite approval," Principal Secretary (Mining) R.K. Verma said in his order.

The order by the state's mines and geology department, however, specifies that the suspension of mining operation "shall not affect trade and transportation of ore already mined and existing in the lease hold area, in transit or stored or stocked on jetties".

The Shah commission report has also squarely blamed former chief minister Digambar Kamat and other bureaucrats linked to the ministry as the main architects of the illegal mining scam, along with major mining industry players.

Monday's order has also asked mining companies and traders of ore to report to the mines and geology department, the exact quantum, quality and location of their ore within a week, which would be then verified by a government appointed committee.

The order was issued within minutes of a press conference, in which green activist Claude Alvares claimed that Parrikar was going out of his to favour the mining industry in Goa, which has been indicted in the Shah Commission report.

"Parrikar should come clean on his stance on illegal mining. He has written a letter to the union ministry for environment and forests that there is no illegal mining in Goa, shortly after he was elected chief minister," he said.