Fearing total stoppage of mining operations as a result of the recent Supreme Court order quashing the second renewal of 88 iron ore mining leases, miners in Goa are now pinning hope on a provision of the MMDR (Amendment) Act, 2015 that states that leases renewed prior to the legislation shall be deemed to have been granted for 50 years. The Goa Mineral Ore Export Association (GMOEA) recently made a representation to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking its intervention to make the requisite legislative amendment to the MMDR (Amendment) Act “to resolve the crisis in the interest of all the stakeholders of the mining industry in Goa”. The apex court had on February 7 quashed all 88 mining leases renewed by the Goa government just before the passage of the MMDR (Amendment) Act, 2015 and ordered that the government will have to grant these leases through auctions again. According to a senior mines ministry official, it will take at least 12-15 months to put these leases into auction.
According to GMOEA, mining leases in Goa were originally granted as mining concessions by the erstwhile Portuguese government between 1941 and 1953, under which a mining concession did not have any limit on tenure. However, in 1987, the concessions were abolished and converted into mining leases under MMDR Act, 1987. The MMDR Amendment Act, which makes auction mandatory for allocation of leases, also provides that mining leases would be deemed to be extended from the date of their last renewal to March 31, 2030 in the case of captive mines and till March 31, 2020 for merchant miners or till the completion of the renewal already granted, if any, or a period of 50 years from the date of grant of such leave, whichever is later. “We humbly request (PMO) to make requisite legislative amendment in the MMDR Act to the effect that mining leases in Goa are deemed to be granted in 1987 for 50 years as per the provision of the Act,” GMOEA president Amber Timblo wrote in a letter to the PMO. The association has, in the letter, also said the closure of the mines would impact 60,000 employments, directly and indirectly, and bring at stake the livelihood of around three lakh people. It will also mean a loss of `4,000 crore per annum to the exchequer.