Panaji: Goa Mineral Ore Exporters’ Association (GMOEA), an industry body dedicated to promoting, supporting, protecting and increasing Goa’s mineral export trade, appealed to the Central Government for recommencement of mining activities in the state which completed its unfortunate two years of stoppage on March 16, 2020.
The recent outbreak of coronavirus pandemic in the country has further worsened the economic and employment situation of Goa because of sudden drop in tourists coming to the state.
The state debt of Goa has reached dangerous levels of over 20,000 crores as per recent state budget figures. This sharp increase in debt levels can be attributed to shutdown of mining activities which has led to revenue loss of Rs 7000 crores in the last 2 years.
The state tourism sector, which is already reeling under huge losses, is expected to witness a major fall in the number of tourists coming to the state over the next 3 quarters. The contraction in tourism will lead to additional losses for the State as well as increase unemployment to the tune of almost 75,000 jobs.
The State is also witnessing closures of several industries due to the extent of the pandemic.
All of this resulting in an acute strain on the state’s exchequer which at present has no visibility of income to justify any form of underwriting support to the industries.
The Suspension of Mining has resulted in no provisions / contributions to the District Mineral Funds (DMF) nor the Goa Iron Ore Permanent Fund (GIOPF) and as a result of which the financial capabilities of these funds to undertake any public interest projects.
Further more initiatives taken by Mineral Foundation of Goa such as Capacity Building of Stakeholders ,Health Camps, Upliftment of Women Self Help Groups, Revival of Waterbodies, Engagement with Locals for benefit of their communities, Infrastructural works needed by community which have all been funded by the Goa Mining Industry have also come into strain.
However the largest damage has been the reputation of Goa as not being a destination for sustainable industry.
Mr. Ambar Timblo, President, GMOEA said, “All along the Industry has always been at the highest level of compliances. Goa is a model State in India in regard to Mining. The reputation damage on our industry has been consistently caused by false and un-substantive allegations by vested interest Groups. Despite not being permitted to work for 70 of the last 96 months, the industry still has paid stamp duties, Land Revenue conversion payments in excess of 1500 Crores, provisions to the Government Funds such as DMF and GIOPF in excess of 700 Crores and Foreign Exchange of over USD 1 Billion. All of this when being denied to work 80% of the period in the last 7 years. Even now, Goa Foundation is objecting to the use of DMF and GIOPF monies for the fight against the pandemic and to save lives, which makes one question their true motives and agenda, as they continue to promote damaging measures that certainly do not serve the interests of the people of Goa regardless of socio-economic class. These funds are being used for the benefit of all Goan citizens, especially because the health and welfare of the people is paramount in any argument for the preservation of intergenerational equity.”.
At present it is not possible to restart the tourism industry unless the contagion is overcome globally. However in so far as mining is concerned the same can be undertaken even during the present period of lockdown with certain safety procedures and practices. A Safety operating procedure has been formulated by the Ministry of Health Affairs (MHA) and is in affect now in the country.
Goa is uniquely positioned for the immediate resumption of operations as all workforce, infrastructure, and relevant statutory clearances are in place.
This is a result of most mining companies continuing to meet their compliances from safety, environmental and health stand point in compliance with numerous orders issued by the centre and the state.
This is made possible because the mining industry in Goa is self-contained and the distance from pit head to inland waterways and subsequently to the port is very short without crossing any state borders
In a most recent judgement, on 30th January 2020, the Supreme Court permitted transportation of extracted Stocks in the State of Goa. However, the main issue of tenure is yet to come up before the Supreme Court.
In India the mining industry is the third largest in terms of generating job per unit increase in the sectoral GDP. Ironically Goa has the highest unemployment rate of 34.5% in the country with around 173,000 unemployed youth according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) Report Sept- Dec. 2019, this has been a direct result of the suspension of activities experienced over the last 8 years.
In this pandemic situation where the World Economic Fallout is inevitable, there is an urgent need to resume mining activities in the Goa so that the socio-economic condition in the state can be stronger.