The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from the Centre, the Goa government and a batch of mining companies on a plea seeking lowering of the cap on extraction of mineral ores in Goa, from the present 20 mtpa to a final 12 mtpa.
The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from the Centre, the Goa government and a batch of mining companies on a plea seeking lowering of the cap on extraction of mineral ores in Goa, from the present 20 mtpa to a final 12 mtpa. Opposing any further increase in the mining cap in Goa, counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Goa Foundation, told a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur that the reduction in mining cap was necessary to control the irreversible damage caused to the environment in the state. “Though the mining industry was found to have damaged the environment of Goa in substantial, irreversible manner, as recorded in the reports of the Justice M.B. Shah Commission and the Central Empowered Committee, no rehabilitation of the damaged environment has even commenced despite mining having resumed, albeit on smaller scale, for the past two years,” the NGO stated.
He also opposed the recommendations of the Expert Committee on the Cap (ECOC) that had sought increase in the mining to 30 mt, saying even the present 20-mt mineral extraction is “deleterious to public health and environment”. “On the contrary, the cap should be reduced to 12 mtpa. It is at this level of extraction several years ago that severe damage to the river ecosystems was observed, divided evenly across the eight months of extraction,” he added.“We have reached a situation where conditions and restraints on mining activities are not merely a precaution but a necessity in light of illegalities that have already been committed. Additionally, the cap on extraction should be made subject to the mining companies’ compliance with the laws and conditions in place. Any violation should result in a drop in the cap by 5 mtpa. As an incentive, if there are no violations, the cap may increase every five years,” he suuggested.
According to the application, despite two years of mining suspension, one year of no-mining activity and the mining carried out from 2015 to 2017, “there was little or no regulation of mining activity to ensure that when it re-commenced, it did not violate any law”. It also alleged that the state government under “tutelage from the mining lobby”, had enabled the working mines to reach the 20 mt target instead. The ones who had resumed mining were illegally allowed to enhance their production beyond the quota imposed on them on the grounds that the cap was 20 mt for the state as a whole, and therefore, the quota allocated to those who did not mine, could be re-allocated to those who had started mining.
According to the NGO, the enhancement of quotas was wholly arbitrary and ranged from between a 29% increase to 121% increase. “Obviously the most powerful companies cornered the most. If this enhanced quota had been utilised, production in 2015-16 would have reached 18 mt. The fact of the matter is the mining industry in Goa could not extract more than 7 mt in the first year, let alone the original cap of 10 mt,” Bhushan said.The top court had in April 2014 allowed an annual cap of 20 million tonne of iron ore to be extracted in Goa, which was banned by it in the state following a report of irregularities by the Justice MB Shah commission in 2013.