Mining in Goa came to a standstill in March last year after the Supreme Court quashed 88 leases in 2018.
A mine owners body in Goa has warned that the absence of clarity on resumption of mining activity will result in huge debt for the state as tourism, which is one of the major contributors to the state GDP, is feeling the pinch due to resurging coronavirus cases in the country.
In an interview with PTI, Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA) President Ambar Timblo said that the position of the state looks “very precarious” as the COVID situation in the country, including Goa, will become acute in the next two months and post lapse of this period there will be the onset of monsoons in the state, an offseason for the tourism sector.
“Then you are ending with negative earning from now all the way to October,” he explained. Mining in Goa came to a standstill in March last year after the Supreme Court quashed 88 leases in 2018. “During the first wave, tourism got hit drastically. There has been a respite in that sector from October (of 2020)…Now from the recent developments, we see…(tourism) sector is coming under stress.
“Two industries (mining and tourism) which constituted over 50 per cent of your state GDP will be for some reason or the other in suspension. “As far as state exchequer is concerned, I do not see from revenue point how they will not see a huge budget deficit this year as well,” Timblo explained.
However, Timblo said that the state government is hopeful the Goa mining matter will be heard in the court and mining would be allowed to commence. At the same time, the Goa government also hopes that situation arising out of COVID-19 can be dealt with so that the tourism sector prospers. “Even the state government is not happy with the present impasse…We have to also appreciate the Centre’s position. They are trying to unlock mining value, in terms of auction of new areas…the Centre is trying to unlock mining potential…They (Centre) have supported us completely.”
GMOEA Secretary Glen Kalavampara said that the stoppage of mining in Goa has amounted to the state’s debt rising every year and reaching at an uncomfortable level. The erstwhile Portuguese regime in Goa granted perpetual mining concessions in the state as long as the concessionaire complied with the conditions which the law and title of concession imposed on him.
After the liberation of Goa in 1961, The Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957, (the MMDR Act) and the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 (the MCR 1960), were made applicable to Goa.
The Goa, Daman & Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition & Declaration of Mining Leases) Act 1987 (the ‘Abolition Act’) was enacted in 1987, which declared erstwhile mining concessions to be deemed to be mining leases since 1961 (retrospective instead of prospective). The Abolition Act was challenged by the erstwhile concessionaires before the Bombay High Court. The High Court upheld the Act but ruled that royalty and other such levies could only be collected by the state prospectively i.e. from1987 onwards and cannot be collected retrospectively.
The concessionaires filed Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) against the judgement before the SC. The Supreme Court passed an interim order permitting the concessionaires to carry on operations and business in the mining areas till disposal of the matter.
In late 2014 and early 2015, the Goa government renewed 88 mining leases in the state. On February 7, 2018, the Supreme Court passed an order cancelling 88 iron ore mining leases in the state that were renewed by the government in 2014-2015.