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Monday, November 30, 2020

There seems to be no way forward for the mining industry in Goa

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Panaji: It’s been nearly three months since Supreme Court passed its order suspending the iron ore mining activities in the State from March 16 onwards; however there seems to be no headway towards resumption of the activities, which is lifeline for over two lakh population. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s absence from the State government due to his sudden and prolonged illness seems to have taken toll in working out immediate remedy to the crisis.

Supreme Court in its judgment dated February 7 quashed and set aside the second renewals granted to 88 mining leases while directing them to stop the operations after March 15. Government seriousness towards the contentious matter can be measured by the fact that it took more than one month for the State to take a call to file a review petition in the Apex Court- which is still in limbo.

Senior Counsel Adv Harish Salve, who was consulted by Government for the legal opinion, has given negative comment against filing revive petition opining that it will not stand before Court of law.

As such, as a last resort, State is like to move a proposal to Union Government to promulgate an ordinance to amend the Goa Daman and Diu Mining Concession (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987, giving life to the leases till 2037. But then, this also will not ensure that mining operations start immediately as the environment clearances (ECs) granted to the leases are also not valid anymore.

Sources in the state administration said that Cabinet Advisory Committee (CAC) is willing to discuss on the issue, provided Chief Secretary IAS Dharmendra Sharma makes it to the agenda. CAC will recommend to the Chief Minister to move the proposal.

“We have to take every step to ensure mining activities resume in the State. We are already late and we cannot wait anymore. CAC can discuss on the ordinance issue and ask Chief Minister to move a proposal to Centre,” CAC member and Minister Francis D’Souza said.

As per the act the mining concessions that had been granted during Portuguese era are deemed to have been abolished, and shall, with effect from an ‘appointed day’, be deemed to be mining leases granted under the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957, adding that if the date is changed then it will mean that Goa’s Portuguese mining concessions became leases under the Indian Act, 1987.

The state government will have to impress upon the Centre on the appointed date as specified in Section 2(a) of the act: the ‘appointed day’ means the 20th day of December 1961, the sources added. Government will have to sought the date be specified as the day the President of India granted assent to the Goa Daman and Diu Concession (Abolition and Declaration As Mining Leases) Act, 1987.

“If the date is changed, the question of having renewed leases in 2007 will not arise, rendering the Supreme Court decision to strike down the renewals as null and void. Promulgation of ordinance to amend the Abolition Act will revive the leases by extending the lease life till 2037,” Mine Owner Harish Melvani said.

“But even after ordinance, it will take another two-three years for mining activities to resume, as the leaseholders will have to go for fresh ECs as the Supreme Court has also termed ECs invalid asking them to go for fresh one,” Melvani explained.

In the current situation, State is left with no other option but to go for auction of leases- a extensive process that will also take atleast three-four years for mining operations to resume.

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