Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is set to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a group of ministers headed by Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari with the goal of restarting iron ore mining in his state.
Iron ore mining in Goa was suspended after the Supreme Court, in February this year, cancelled nearly 90 mining leases.
CM Parrikar is facing pressure in Goa to find a way to revive mining activity. The Goa Assembly recently passed a resolution asking the state government to petition the Centre on amending existing laws to restart mining.
His government, which has a thin numeric majority in Goa, also hopes that revived iron ore mining in Goa will work as an economic stimulus that will boost Parrikar’s political standing in a state that has had a history of fragile governments.
The Centre is already said to be exploring legal options to restart iron mining in Goa. Among the options that have been explored, in coordination with the Goa government, is a possible e-auction of the iron ore dumps that exist in the state.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has previously said that auctioning of leases was the only option right now. However, auctioning the dumps may take over a year and so the group of ministers, which includes Gadkari, Piyush Goel, Suresh Prabhu, Harshvardhan, Narendra Tomar and Ravi Shankar Prasad, is exploring other avenues.
Supreme Court, on February 7, banned all mining activity involving low-quality iron ore extraction in the coastal state from March 16 onwards. This was the second instance of the Supreme Court issuing such a ban in six years.
The first total ban on mining was imposed in October 2012 due to illegal mining. This ban was partially lifted in April 2014.
The impact of the first ban was instant. Goa’s annual budgets showed a decline in the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the tune of 20 per cent as the state’s export of low-grade ore, which amounted to 20-25 million tonnes a year, came to a halt.
In 2014-15, the BJP government in Goa, first led by Manohar Parrikar and then Laxmikant Parsekar, renewed the leases of mining companies for 20 years with retrospective effect from 2007. But this renewal displeased the Supreme Court, which termed the move “hasty and illegal”.
In its February order, the Supreme Court, apart from once again banning all mining activity in Goa, set aside 88 iron ore mining leases that were renewed.
MB SHAH COMMISSION REPORT
Supreme Court’s bans on iron ore mining in Goa are linked to the Justice MB Shah Commission report indicted former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat for allowing illegal mining in the state. The report took Kamat to task for instances of abuse of power that the commission said resulted in companies and miners amassing of large sums of wealth at the cost of environmental degradation.
Kamat held the mines portfolio in Goa for over 10 years in three governments – two headed by the Congress and one by the BJP.
The Justice MB Shah Commission report also came down hard on the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government, which was the one to table the report in Parliament in 2012, for a “total lack of coordination” in the different wings of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
The report said that this lack of coordination “resulted in illegalities [and] consequential ecological damage and losses estimated at Rs 35,000 crore.”
News credit : Indiatoday