The mines department has directed a basalt stone quarry operator in Sanguem to pay Rs 1.22 crore towards royalty within one month, following the controversial extraction of basalt stones from a quarry in Uguem from 2008 to 2012.
Hit by this notice, efforts are now on to involve local politicians, in a desperate bid to get the government to reduce the royalty.
Director of Mines and Geology, Prasanna Acharya, issued a demand notice, asking the quarry operator to make the payment towards royalty within one month from the date of the demand notice, failing which the amount would be recovered as arrears of land revenue.
The notice stated that the quarry operator extracted basalt stones from a site other than the area granted to the quarry operator by the Department of Mines and Geology. “During the period, the quarry operator extracted 62,720 cubic metres of basalt stones from the quarry, which account to payment of royalty of Rs 1.25 crore. However the quarry operator paid Rs 3.33 lakh towards royalty and Rs 1.22 crore is due and recoverable from the quarry operator,” states the notice.
The notice has been issued following an enquiry by the department in view of a high court order in a Public Interest Litigation filed by a villager, Francisco Carvalho.
Following the High Court order, all quarry operations by some six quarry operators in Uguem were brought to a grinding halt by the mines department, as there were severe illegalities in the growing rush to extract basalt stones. Acting on the high court order, the mines department had issued show-cause notices to all six quarry operators.
As the reply by the penalized quarry operator was not acceptable, the Director of Mines issued the notice to the quarry operator, directing the company to pay the arrears in royalty amounting to Rs 1.22 crore, within one month.
Claiming that the department has finally initiated some concrete action, Carvalho stated that “The village has finally been saved from wanton destruction by the quarry operators. The inquiry with regard to the remaining five quarry operators is under process and the department is expected to finalize it in the next few days,” he said.
Meanwhile, the aggrieved quarry operators are reportedly learnt to be making last ditch attempts to persuade the government to reduce the fine. To escape with minor fines, the quarry operators are believed to be meeting local politicians to persuade Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to reduce the fine amount. [H]