Mumbai: Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar is expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week to find a way out of the court-ordered ban on mining in the state, a mining industry spokesperson said.
Representatives of the mining industry—the second largest employment provider in the state after tourism—have already made several representations to the Goa government in this regard. According to the spokesperson, the idea is to hash out a proposal that would resume mining, that would also be acceptable to courts.
“We’ve discussed all options on how this situation can be resolved going forward," Ambar Timblo, president, Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA), told Mint over the phone. “Right now, it’s very difficult to have a concrete solution. There are two varying judgements from the Supreme Court, in 2014 and 2018. There is also a petition from 1998 on whether miners in Goa should operate on concessions or leases, which is also pending before the Supreme Court. So, finding a solution that respects the law and doesn’t go in contempt of past judgements is difficult."
The meeting with the prime minister is expected in the second week of July, before the start of Parliament’s monsoon session.
The Supreme Court earlier this year banned all iron ore mining in the state after 16 March, ruling on a petition filed by the NGO Goa Foundation. The court rejected the state government’s rights to renew 88 iron ore mining leases, effectively halting all mining activity in the coastal state.
Industry estimates say the mining ban has caused direct and indirect job losses to 60,000 people, while the state exchequer faces annual losses of about ₹ 3,400 crore. In February 2018, GMOEA wrote to Union mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar that Goa’s mining industry is in a “state of shock as it faces its latest economic crisis". Mint has seen a copy of the letter.
In 2012, Supreme Court first banned mining in the state based on the M.B. Shah panel report which found evidence of illegal mining of up to ₹ 35,000 crore from 2005 to 2012. The ban was partially lifted, with restrictions that halved the ore extracted, in 2014 but was reinforced again this year.
“Goa should have the same mining rights as other states in India," Timblo said. “But right now, the court has ruled that the state government does not have the right to renew leases. So, we will have to approach the Union government for a solution or a legislative cure for this."
Even if the process of working towards lifting a ban begins right away, mining can resume earliest in September 2019, Timblo estimated. “The second time we were shut down, despite us complying with everything, there was not a single negative finding against us. So, we are overtly paranoid now about doing anything going forward without having enough checks and balances (in place). Restarting (and abruptly being made to stop) is very uneconomical."