After weeks of speculation, the Central Empowered Committee’s clinical and detailed report submitted to the Supreme Court on Friday indicates that Goa is finally on the threshold of a complete clean-up of the flagrant illegalities in the mining industry.The CEC was directed by the apex court in October to give a report on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation after it submitted that the State Government failed to act on the recommendations of the Shah Commission findings.Starting out with the very direct indictment that “mining operations in Goa have violated with impunity the relevant Acts, Rules and Regulations and orders” of the Supreme Court, the CEC’s recommendations are bound to ensure that some of the biggest players like Sesa Goa and Fomento will be cut to less than a third of their current production, even as contractors and power of attorney holders like Joaquim Alemao and Dinar Tarcar and hundreds of others who made a killing at the peak of the illegal rush for the black mineral will be booted out of play.
This, because the CEC has come down heavily on violations of Rule 37(1) and 37(3) of the Mineral Concession Rule 1960 which disallow mining leases to be operated by persons other than the lease holders: “A very large number of mining leases were being operated by persons other than the lessees and in flagrant violation of the provisions of the MCR 1960 and in all probability with the tacit approval of the State government. Based on the unregistered and dubious General Power of Attorneys and other documents, the mining leases have been allowed to be operated by persons having clout by treating the leases granted to individual persons as those granted to partnership firms and the inclusion of such persons as partners in the firms. Two such leases were being operated by the subsidiaries of a company registered outside India,” the CEC said.
Further, to a point that is relevant to the recovery of the estimated Rs 35,000 crore loss incurred by the exchequer due to the mining scam as pointed out by the Shah Commission, the CEC has asked the Supreme Court to pass appropriate directions for “compensation payable by the persons found to be involved in production, trade or export of illegal ore”. It said compensation was to be recovered from those involved in illegal ore production.
In what will be a huge relief to the Green lobby, the CEC has said that 42 mining leases 19 of them within wildlife sanctuaries and 23 within 1 km of national parks and sanctuaries ~ should be prohibited. Also, the 120 mining leases located within 10 km of sanctuaries will require a green signal from the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBW) and the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangalore. The CEC has also recommended that the Goa government constitute a committee under the State Chief Secretary with the Secretary Mines, the Bangalore Conservator of Forests and a Joint Secretary from the Union Ministry of Mines as members to investigate records of all lease holders and submit its report to the apex court within three months.
The CEC headed by former Goa Chief Secretary PV Jayakrishnan visited mining leases in Goa between October 28 and October 30. The apex court appointed committee has also recommended that the State government conduct a thorough probe of the records to unearth the quantum of illegally produced iron ore from 2005-06 onwards.
In a stinging dismissal of the Goa government’s stand that dump mining did not need any green clearances or other statutory clearances the CEC said that “extraction of mineral from the overburden dumps located outside the approved mining lease areas should not be permitted till an environmentally sustainable Scheme of Mining” is in place. Dump mining would also need approval of a statutory authority and the SC.
Get your act together, then start legal mining…
It may be a while before iron ore mining ~ which has in recent years given Goa such a poor image ~ will resume.
The interim report of the Central Empowered Committee makes it clear that mining operations in Goa should be allowed to resume only in mining leases not involved in irregularities and those too, only after they’ve gone through a stringent set of rules.
Among these is a Macro Level Environment Impact Assessment Study Report to be done by the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) and a taluka wise ceiling on permissible annual production is determined.
Mining leases would have to be surveyed and demarcated by the team constituted by the apex court and each lease will be required to produce an R&R (reclamation and restoration) Plan.
A lease-wise annual production will be fixed after taking into consideration all factors like the mineral availability, area available for over burden dump and available infrastructure facilities particularly the carrying capacity of the existing roads, the interim report says.
The CEC is categorical that those involved in violations such as sub-contracting leases and encroachments would not be allowed to do business “till a decision regarding compensation payable by such lease holders is taken and complied with and the preparation and implementation of the R&R Plans is completed”. [H]