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Goa Mining People's Front starts 3-day protest in Delhi

Members of the Goa Mining People's Front, a collective of workers, truck and barge operators dependent on the now-banned iron ore mining industry, started their three-day protest in the national capital on Tuesday, demanding efforts from the state and Central government towards a quick resumption of mining in the state.

Speaking to IANS from the national capital, the head of the Front, Puti Gaonkar, demanded that the state government file an affidavit in the Supreme Court in support of a petition already filed by the Front, seeking an amendment to a central law, as assured to them last month by Chief Secretary Parimal Rai.

This, Gaonkar said, would hasten the restart of the mining industry, banned by the apex court last year.

"The state government should file an affidavit in the apex court seeking amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Leases (Abolition of Mining Concessions and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act 1987, to make it apply prospectively, which automatically extends the lease period of Goa's iron ore leases -- that have lapsed since 2007 -- till 2037 and restart mining," he said.

The protest is expected to continue at Delhi's Jantar Mantar for three-days starting Tuesday.

The mining issue has been hanging fire in Goa, ever since the apex court banned extraction and transportation of iron ore from 88 mining leases from March 2018, while also directing the state government to re-issue mining leases.

The is the second time in less than a decade that all mining in the state has come to a standstill.

A 2012 ban was earlier lifted by the apex court in 2014, but it imposed fresh restrictions once again in 2018, after it found that the BJP-led coalition government had not followed due procedure in the lease renewal process, while also ruling that the mining leases had lapsed in 2007.

Before Goa was liberated by the Indian armed forces in 1961, mining leases in Goa were permanent concessions granted by the Portuguese colonists for exploration and exploitation.

Once India took over control of the coastal state, the Goa Daman and Diu (Abolition of Concession and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987, converted the same concessions into mining leases under the Mines and Minerals Development Act, 1954, making them valid for a fixed tenure of 20 years, which lapsed in 2007.

Though passed by the Indian Parliament in 1987, in the case of Goa, the law was retrospectively brought into effect from 1961, the year Goa was liberated from Portuguese yoke.

The resumption of mining is a key political issue in the upcoming round of Lok Sabha elections and bypolls to three assembly constituencies.

--IANS

maya/bc