The over 60-year-old mining industry in Goa has been ordered to shut all operations until further orders. A notification suspending all operations was issued by the state government following the indictment of former CM Digambar Kamat by the Shah commission, which inquired the illegal mining in the state. The order will be effective from today.
The government though was cautious stating that those mines found to be carrying out mining with proper documents will be allowed to resume operations for rest of the mining season after scrutiny of documents.
Goa has 90 operational mines of the existing 337 mining leases. The notification suspending the mining operations, signed by principal secretary (mines) R K Verma on Monday evening, has come as a jolt to the big names of mining such as Vedanta-owned Sesa Goa, VM Salgaocar & Bro owned by Dattaraj and Shivanand Salgaocar, Salgaocar Mining Industries owned by former MLA Anil Salgaocar, Fomentos owned by the Audhoot Timblo, Bandekar Mines owned by Narayan Bandekar, Damodar Mangalji & Company, Chowgule Mining Private Limited among others.
The halting of mining operations may not have any major impact immediately since most mines are not currently operating in view of the monsoon. The mining season in Goa commences around end of September.
Goa which exported 42 million tones of iron ore to China, Japan, and a few European countries during 2011-12, employs over 1 lakh people in the mining sector. The state accounts for over 55% of iron ore exports from the country, said Goa Mineral Ore Exporters’ Association (GMOEA).T
he BJP government, which defeated the previous Congress regime by running on a strong plank against illegal iron ore mining, has now pitched its weight behind mining of the existing dumps. The government has taken on the Centre, which had claimed that these dumps, worth several millions of dollars, could be mined for iron only after environment, forest and other central clearances.
In an indication that the state government is soft-pedalling, it is yet to move to notify the eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around national parks and sanctuaries. Notification would close a large number of mines. The actions of the Parikkar government go against the recommendations of the Shah Commission. The commission has noted that cases of theft should be registered as much of the ore was extracted illegally. It has also recommended that the state government recover market or export rates for the material already mined.
While the commission has noted how illegalities in the mining business have been condoned, Parikkar government’s decision to allow mined ore to be sold will permit even illegal mines to continue to earn.