Goa green hurdle: SC panel wants scrapping of 42 mining leases

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 8 2012, 07:44am hrs
The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has recommended scrapping 42 mining leases operating either within or up to a one kilometre distance of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Goa.

The CEC, which submitted its report to the apex court on Friday, asserted that the SC should allow mining in Goa only after Environment Impact Assessment report is given in favour of mining lease holders, proper demarcation of lease areas are done and rehabilitation and reclamation plan was put into action.

A bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam asked all the stakeholders to file their response to the report and posted the matter for further hearing on January 4.

The apex court on October 5 had banned mining, transportation and export of iron ore from Goa pending inquiry report by the CEC, which was asked to probe into illegal iron-ore mining in the state, as pointed out by the Justice MB Shah inquiry commission. Citing the adverse effects of the interim order on the economy of Goa, the Goa Mining Association had last week disputed the findings of Justice Shah Commission's report and sought lifting of the ban.

The association had attacked the Shah Commission report, tabled in Parliament on September 7, which alleged that iron ore worth R35,000 crore was plundered by mining companies at the expense of the public exchequer by illegal mining in the last 12 years.

The Goa Mining Association, the Goa Mining Labour Welfare Union, the South Goa Truck-Owners Association, the All Goa Barge-Owners Association and mine-owner Harish Melawani have filed individual impleadment petitions in the matter.

The report preferred a complete prohibition on mining activities in respect of 19 mining leases located within wildlife sanctuaries and another 23 leases located up to a distance of 1 km from the boundaries of nearby national parks or sanctuaries. The panel also recommended a relook at MoEFs clearances to 120 other mining leases, located within a distance of up to 10 km of the national parks and sanctuaries, and said these should be placed before the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) for consideration.

The CEC stated that the permission to resume mining operations in Goa should be given only to the mining lease holders who are not found to be involved in any illegality. This can be ensured only after the Macro Level EIA study report by the Indian Council for Forest Research and Education, Dehradun (ICFRE) is given and a decision regarding the Taluka wise ceiling on permissible annual production from all the mining leases is taken.

Besides, the survey and demarcation of the mining leases by the apex-court appointed team is completed and the R&R Plans are prepared and lease-wise permissible annul production are fixed after considering the mineral availability, area available for over burden dump and available infrastructure facilities particularly the carrying capacity of the existing roads, the panel said. It added that the resumption of mining operations by mining leases found to be involved in illegalities and working beyond the sanctioned mining lease boundaries may not be permitted till a decision regarding compensation payable by such lease holders is taken and complied with and the preparation and implementation of the R&R plans is completed.

The panel also directed the Goa government to immediately notify comprehensive rules to regulate the storage, transportation and shipment of minerals, and said that till such comprehensive rules are put in place, the resumption of mining operations may not be permitted.