In a major crackdown on illegal mining in mineral-rich Goa, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) on Wednesday suspended the environment clearances of all 93 leases in the state, asking the mine owners to file their documents.
Some of the projects came under attack for illegal mining belong to Dempo Mining Corp, Emco Goa, Mineira National, Sesa Goa, V M Salgaocar & Bro and Chowgule & Co. Many of these clearances are learnt to have been granted during 2007-09, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held the environment portfolio.
“The clearances were granted on wrong facts submitted by the state government,” Environment Minister Jayanti Natarajan told Business Standard. The mine owners will have to file the documents, required for getting the environment clearances, the minister said over the phone from Goa.
Natarajan added her ministry was studying the M B Shah Commission report on the subject and more action would be decided later. On taking action against officials in her ministry who had been indicted in the Shah Commission report, she said: “It’s too early, we are looking into the matter.”
The commission was set up in November 2010 for probing illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore.
The commission in its report said environmental clearances were given on the base of wrong information.
Approvals had been granted in many cases under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest land for iron ore mining leases in the eco-sensitive zones without placing the project proposals before the Standing Committee of National Board for Wild Life, the report said.
“It’s one of the serious lapses on the part of MoEF. This has caused an irreversible and irreparable damage to bio-diversity, wildlife, environment and ecosystem as a whole in the eco-sensitive zone of the Western Ghats of the state of Goa,” it added. Last year, the Supreme Court had banned iron ore mining in Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur districts of Karnataka, citing environmental violations.
"The Shah Commission report revealed that all modes of illegal mining are committed in Goa and all the mining companies are involved in illegal mining," said Claude Alvares, director of the Goa Foundation, a non-governmental organisation. With environment clearances suspended, the mines now cannot operate in Gao, without a final nod from the Centre, he added.
Goa is contributing around 50 per cent of ore to the country’s total export production. Compared to the rest of the country, the geographical area of Goa is 888 times smaller than the rest of the country. Thus the exploitation of Goa is 460 times more than its geographical capacity.