The Supreme Court today asked the Goa government to respond to a plea seeking its direction to reduce the interim cap on mining in the state from 20 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) to 12 MTPA. A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked the state government and some mining companies to file their responses within two weeks and posted the matter for hearing on November 29. The application, filed by NGO Goa Foundation, has sought reduction of the interim cap on mining, alleging that it has been fixed without taking into account the adverse impact on the citizens and the environment of the state.
It claimed that an expert committee on the cap (ECOC) had recommended in its final report that cap on mining may be increased from 20 million tonnes to 30 million tonnes and the applicant has already filed detailed submissions opposing this enhanced extraction of mineral ores from Goa’s mines. The plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, has alleged that 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”.
“Neither was there any significant improvement of infrastructure on the ground to ensure village communities did not get hurt,” it said. Referring to Goa’s Sonshi village, the plea said that after the vacation of stay on mining activities, the pollution caused by mining transport has reached “such alarming levels” that multiple authorities, including the Bombay High Court and Goa state commission for protection of child rights, have taken cognisance on their own to provide relief to villagers. “If such is the situation that could emerge with the existing cap amount, an increase in the cap would be completely unjustified.
This is not the situation in Sonshi village alone, but is repeated in other clusters as well,” it said adding that mineral ore was being transported in trucks without any safeguard. The plea has also raised the issue of absence of infrastructure to govern the mining operations in the state. The top court had in April 2014 allowed an annual cap of 20 million tonnes of iron ore to be extracted in Goa which was banned by it in the state for nearly one-and-a-half years.
It, however, had said that an expert panel would give final recommendation on annual cap on excavation of iron ore. The court had in October 2013 stopped mining, transportation and export of iron ore in Goa following a report of irregularities by the Justice M B Shah Commission.