The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed Vedanta and others to transport extracted iron ore, on which royalty has been paid to the Goa government, for export purposes or for captive consumption.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed Vedanta and others to transport extracted iron ore, on which royalty has been paid to the Goa government, for export purposes or for captive consumption. The Anil Agarwal-owned mining company on Wednesday sought a clarification from the apex court that the ore which had been mined before March 16 and was taken out of the lease area before this date after payment of royalty be allowed to be transported. Besides, it had also sought further transportation of the 1.6 million metric tonne of iron ore at jetties, harbours, ports and barges for export purposes or captive consumption under the strict supervision of the Directorate of Mines and Geology, Goa. The companies told a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur that once royalty is paid and ore is taken out of the mining lease area, it belongs to the leaseholder with no statutory restriction on end use, sale or storage. Vedanta, Fomento Resources and others had challenged the Bombay High Courts’s March 28 order that stopped transportation of ore in Goa till the final disposal of the PIL on the premise that the SC in its prima facie opinion “contemplated” stoppage of transportation of ore as well. The HC’s interim directions had come following a contempt petition filed by Goa Foundation, an NGO. The three mining firms including VM Salgaoncar and the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) had filed the review petition, which were also turned down by the HC. The apex court on February 7, while cancelling the second renewal of 88 iron ore mining leases in Goa, had directed that all mining operations in the state be stopped with effect from March 16. It had said that the sole motive of the companies behind the commercial activity was profit maximisation and no social purpose was attached to it. The company stated that many fully loaded barges which were transporting ore to be loaded to a ship carrying an export consignment have been abruptly left stranded in the waters and these barges were not only blocking the navigation channel of waterways but are a huge safety risk. The Supreme Court in 2014 had lifted the ban on iron ore mining in Goa but capped production at 20 million tonne per annum (mtpa). In 2015, the Goa government gave clearance for a second renewal of iron ore mining leases to 88 companies. However, the apex court quashed these renewals, stating that the Goa government could only give fresh leases and not second renewals. However, it provided a reprieve for the companies by directing them to stop mining operations only after March 15 this year, until fresh mining leases and fresh environmental clearances were granted.