The Centre has turned down the Goa government’s plea to allow dumping of rejects and sub-grade ore outside the leasehold area, saying that instead, the problem can be “easily sorted out” by modifying the lease boundaries as defined in the deed to include the dumping area also.
Barely one-and-a-half months after the passage of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act in March, mineral-rich Goa had on May 6 urged the Centre to amend it again to include a provision which would ensure full-fledged and efficient mining operations in the state.
Goa has a peculiar problem. The mining leases here are small, ranging between 50-100 hectares, compared with the average lease size of 250 hectares in Odisha and Jharkhand. As the lease areas are small, if they store the produced ore within the lease area, their mining activity would squeeze, impacting production. Goa’s miners never used to dump inferior ore within the lease area prior to the mining ban imposed by the Supreme Court in October 2012.
However, while lifting the ban in April 2014, the apex court had directed that all mining and mining-related operations must take place only within the notified boundaries of the mining lease.
“There does not seem to be, per se, any major difficulty in complying with this direction. If the dumping of tailings or sub-grade material or waste material has been done in some areas outside the boundaries of the mine lease as specified in the lease deed, the problem can be easily sorted out, in my opinion, by modifying the lease boundaries as defined in the lease deed to include (these areas) also. This will only require a rectification deed to be registered under the relevant rules,” Union steel and mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote in a recent letter to Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar.
“Even where the dump area is not adjacent to, or contiguous with, the existing mining lease area, it should be possible for the state government to grant permission for such a non-contiguous dump area,” he added.
The Goa chief minister had been pressing for inclusion of the provision even while the present Act was still in the Bill stage. After the Act was passed, he wrote, “The state of Goa was confident that this vital amendment would be incorporated in the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015 to provide for dumping outside leasehold area in the interest of efficient mining operations, especially mineral development, and also in recognition of local factors like small size of leases/established practices.”
He had also urged Tomar to confirm the legal position by seeking the advice of the attorney-general of India.
Goa used to produce around 45 million tonne (MT) of low-grade iron ore annually before the ban imposed by the Supreme Court. Due to the absence of domestic buyers, who do not have the required technology to use such ores in iron making, most of the produce from the state used to be exported to China. The Supreme Court has capped the annual production from the state at 20 MT.