Apex court issues notice to Centre, Vedanta, others over mining in Goa

By: | Published: November 18, 2015 12:39 AM

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought responses from the Centre, Vedanta and others on a PIL challenging the Goa government's decision to renew 88 iron ore mining leases in the state.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought responses from the Centre, Vedanta and others on a PIL challenging the Goa government’s decision to renew 88 iron ore mining leases in the state.

A bench headed by justice J S Khehar issued notice to the environment ministry, the Goa government, the CBI, Vedanta companies (erstwhile Sesa Mining Corp and Sesa Resources), Chowgule & Co, and 17 other mining companies after two petitions, one filed by Goa Foundation — the NGO that took the state government to the Supreme Court over illegal mining in the state — and another by activist Sudip Tamankar, alleged gross irregularities in renewal of 88 mining leases early this year to various companies including Vedanta.

The NGO has also challenged the environment ministry’s decision to revoke the  environment clearance (EC) of 72 mining leases with conditions, which were kept in abeyance in September 2012, following the M B Shah commission’s report on illegal mining. The NGO has also demanded a probe in the matter. The bench also posted the matter for further hearing on December 9.

Mining activity in Goa came to a halt in September 2012 after the Shah commission report on illegal mining was tabled in the Parliament. All top mining companies were indicted in the illegal mining scam and the report also pointed out to a politician-bureaucrat-mining companies nexus.

The ban was eventually lifted in 2014, but the Supreme Court had ordered cancellation of all existing mining leases and issuance of fresh leases.

Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, argued that the state government had earlier this year on January 12 brought an ordinance that laid down guidelines for granting fresh licences for the iron ore mines. The state government then renewed 88 licences of previous lease holders weeks before the ordinance was passed, including 40 of them on January 12 itself, he said, adding that the leases could not have been  renewed in view of the apex court’s orders and fresh licences could have been issued only through auctions or some other form of competitive system.

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