Increasing reliance on the courts and on judicial means for addressing core moral dilemmas, political controversies, and public policy continue to rise in recent years. The Rising Number of Cases does put enormous pressure and stress on the Hon’ble Courts.
Mining has always been a part of integral part of Goa’s economy and can still play a strategic role in shaping the state’s inclusive and robust development.
It needs to be reminded that the industry had been working over continuous efforts engaged in the past to ensure viability in Infrastructure, Logistics, reputation as a supplier in international Markets, Continuous improvement in beneficiation techniques and utilization of unwanted grades. The investments over the years and the Risks taken in yesteryears when iron ores were a not a much in demand commodity are often overlooked in present times.
Over the years, the Mining sector had not only systematically developed creating ancillary business linked to major core business but individually also ensured creating institutions of excellence for the benefit of the Society at large. Since last few years, no other sector in the State of Goa provide for the quantum of taxes paid by the Mining Industry. To a direct query on how much ? Roughly over 35% of its realised Price of Product.
Notwithstanding that the cost of operations, process, Inflation, logistics, Risks in retaining markets etc are all to be undertaken.
No other sector can contribute to the State Economy as much as Mining Does in Goa.
Concerns on Environment
Stress on Environment due to mining happen in any other region or any other sector, however, these need to be managed well. However sometimes, and especially on logistics there is a need to ensure a balance with the Social v/s Environmental Aspects. It is no rocket science why sometimes these issues get diluted when the greater need supported by Governance is leaned towards Societal pressures.
What could however been managed better was to engage more conducive engagement with Stakeholders including those who have been indirectly impacted, effective conduct of transport to reduce effects of inconveniences to stakeholders from the Mines to the loading jetties (Separate Mining Corridors could have helped ) and in hind site an effective communication portal, and such roads lined with tall leavy trees with areas free from habitation.
Concepts of Joint Mineral Contribution and effective addressal started voluntarily in Goa , much before it was mandated by the Government. As designed by TERI, the Mineral Foundation of Goa ( MFG ), the 1st of its kind in India since early 2000 having a Down – Top approach with an aim to improve the socio – economic development within these mining belt. Capacity building of Villagers into Selp Help Groups amongst others to ensure involvement of villagers. Mining companies in earlier years also faced a larger licence to operate especially when the areas of operations were in closer vicinity to the villages.
However, speculations of voracious mining in the country (limited mostly to ferrous minerals) screeched roof tops and found their way in the Courts post blame games as is often seen in the Print and Visual media.
However, unlike other states, there have been NO encroachments nor working within Wildlife sanctuaries by Mining Companies in Goa. There have been NO workings in Forest lands without necessary approvals. It is rather unfortunate how Goa has possibly missed the Bus whereas in Rest of India, where the concerns were higher is up and on. The only distinction being that its ores had limited markets. But the anti-sentiment gets fuelled when patience runs short and the time to afford an explanation is curtailed thereby leading to the debate on who does it benefit then ?
Surely generating foreign exchange is essentially, and not often have the Prices of Ores being in the upward mode as is being made to believe. As a matter of fact, the prices from 1960’s onwards had been rather stagnant, and the only reasons apart from riverine logistics, were the Rupee : Dollar Fluctuations which kept the Industry afloat.
It was in these periods that Investments were done to be competitive but what seems to be considered in the short period of times between 2006 to 2012 when the demand and prices were upbeat.
Quick to taint the sector, one often missed out the deeper linkages on efforts engaged within the Mining Belt since inception:
- Development works which ensured connectivity from Remote parts of the State to be lined to Mainland,
- Gradual development of Shipyards,
- Development of the Port,
- Building Relationships with buyers to position as a reliable supplier,
- Value Addition at the Mines for technical advancements,
- Staff Still retained despite no income in recent past as well as morally responsible for mines pits to be maintained despite no operations.
What was also forgotten is the relationships on how Educational Institutions were built for society or for that matter even its support with State’s Patriotic sport i.e Football where even the Mining company names were recognised by the Football Clubs they sponsored or even the famous Bombay – Goa Sea Voyages by Konkan Shakti in the 1970’s to early 1980’s.
For a layman, Mining operations are limited in surficial outreach. At the peak of operations in 2012, the total land occupied by Mining in Goa was around 2.5% to 3% of the Total Geographical area but its contribution to the State GDP was in the range of 25%.
In Crude terms, Mining Operation is rather akin to a surgical operation.
First, there must be competent technicians to do the work. ( Mining Engineers, Geologists, Foremen, Electrical Engineers, Environment Engineers etc )
There is an unavoidable cutting open …. a task to be performed, the closing of the cut and Restoration of the cut with as little trauma as possible.
Such a condition may be difficult to watch, but the resultant is essential and that it is beneficial to the Society.
Guests going to Restaurants are not expected to eat in Kitchen? but if not for the kitchen, no restaurants would run. In a similar metaphor, Society expects to use the products of Mineral if it is not in our backyard. Similar is the situation for garbage disposal. This mentality must change.
So, what are the present concerns?
It is true that the demand for ores since 2006 onwards grew in Goa as in the case of Rest of India, which did raise concerns on the carrying capacity. Any increase in volume / production does put a parallel pressure on infrastructure / systems if not reciprocally compatible.
The Apex Court has since 2014 onwards fixed a ceiling on production of Ore in Goa however, the ability of carrying out operations since had been litigated again and suspended since 2018 despite the robust checks and balances put in place.
In recent times there seem to be a back lash from certain quarters on why the existing lease operators should be permitted to operate !!
The differing opinions create a level of mistrust in a System where the narrative seems that the grass looks greener in the other compound or some deep-seated concerns which needs to be addressed through a dialogue but within the framework of law.
However, in doing so, it fails to sense the qualification set up and tested for years of toil and raising the bar where it stands today. In the long run, it kills the spirit of entrepreneurship. The Relationships build over years of trial and test, and which still need to be maintained and nourished seem to be kept aside in a rather unfair manner.
Today, In cricket, we look forward for a T20 rather than the T50 for the one day game ( leave aside test matches) . Gradually tomorrow it would be a T10 or T5 Match …. But wouldn’t the spirit the original sport not be lost ?
When Hon’ble Apex Court order in April 2014 held the right of renewals ought not be automatic for the 2nd renewal, the onus was rather more on the State Government’s role of disposing the applications, where applications of renewals were pending for long. This order was to affect Pan India across mineral sectors.
The Central Government’s amendment in MMRD 2015 as a transitional provision, have ensured several beneficiaries in other states, as well as corrections over the years, however, in the State of Goa, this provision had been missed or perhaps overlooked till date. The industry as well as the State have repeatedly represented on this to the Centre in the recent past.
Impact on Continued Stoppage
The impact of the mining suspension has been quite far-reaching on the state of Goa. It is not only restricted to mining workers and their dependents. It has disrupted an entire ecosystem of allied industries from logistics of waterways such as barges to surface transport comprising trucks and earth movers and lead to a feeling of distrust and low morale.
With no work and an inevitable debt burden, a huge financial crisis is now looming to the once prosperous State of Goa. How it will impact the already stressed economy of the State is anyone’s guess. With the Debt rising over the years, one thing is sure, that the Future would be more stressful than the past if not quickly addressed. This reality must sink in that for a State to be prosperous, its people must be engaged with work which have to supplied by Industries and Entrepreneurships.
Road Map Ahead
- The Rule of Law provides modern societies with stability and a clear system for resolving conflicts. Goa’s unique statutory history, its transfer of sovereignty from Portuguese, and the structured transition of applicable acts; as well has the track record recent and historical as a compliant and contributory mining jurisdiction; all require a solution which holds in respect the spirit of the Central Legislation as it has changed and will continue to change.
- It is rather sad in our Country which need a sustainable development to be at par with other developed countries hurting ourselves by inaction and curtailment on ongoing activities by frequent litigation. There is a need for an empathy to solve and not prolong.
- More Transparency – so that concerns of the society are carefully addressed and at the same time proactively advertising the positive efforts done, which have been rather silent in the past.
- No adverse effect to the environment and any indiscriminate work should result in correction immediately. ( In doing so, one must realize the operations of Mining would essentially involve digging but the cycle has to be seen holistically )
- Effective Logistics movements with limited effects on other stakeholders.
- Possibly a growing need of an ombudsman who must bridge the gap between the opposing extremes. Concerns on Mistrust must be addressed by effective dialogues. Unless addressed, the growing chasm would be detrimental.
- Permissions / Clearances can’t be pending for long. Nether does this benefit the industry nor the Government nor the public. There is a need for a single window system with a timeline.
- With available assets both in terms of technical and manpower, responsible resumption by existing lease holders with even higher handholding with the villagers on ground would therefore be more sustained and practical.
- Voluntary efforts of CSR are now replaced by mandatory taxes. i.e District Mineral Fund , Goa Iron ore Permanent Fund ( GIOPF ) – How effectively can these serve ? Almost 220 Crores in DMF and 460 Crores in GIOPF have been raised since mine operations commenced in 2016 onwards. Hopefully such contributions can augment and benefit over and above the taxes paid to reduce the burgeoning debt.
Are we Killing the Goose that lays the Golden Egg ? Will the New Year bring Better Hope ?
One thing is Sure, A Stick in Time saves Nine
Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association & Goa Mining Association