Acting on the report of an expert panel, the Supreme Court Monday allowed resumption of mining in Goa but with an annual cap of 20 million tonnes of iron ore extraction.
It also ruled that the Goa government will have to formulate a scheme within six months for utilising the funds generated by e-auction of the iron ore.
The expert panel, which studied the environmental impact of mining, had recommended that mining should be permitted with an annual cap of 20 million tonnes after the Goa government sets up a regulatory and monitoring mechanism.
It had also recommended setting up of a mining corporation or a public sector company in view of the “illegalities” by private miners. Saying that it was not “desirable” to start fresh extraction of iron ore as there was a “large-scale degradation” of the eco-system in Goa by mining and that the restoration needs timely monitoring, the panel had recommended creating a “permanent fund” for the purpose.
Monday’s ruling lifts the court’s nearly one-and-a-half-year-old order stopping operations in all 90 mines in Goa after the Justice M B Shah Commission estimated a Rs 35,000-crore loss to the state due to illegal mining over 12 years.
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However, the bench of Justices A K Patnaik, S S Nijjar and F M I Kalifulla asked the expert panel to give its final recommendation with regard to the annual cap on extraction of iron ore within six months.
The panel will also recommend within six months how the extracted dumps are to be utilised. It said there cannot be a deemed renewal of lease after 2007 of the existing lease deeds emanating from 1962 onwards.
The SC had on November 11, 2013 allowed e-auctioning of nearly 11.48 million tonnes of extracted iron ore lying unused in Goa for over a year after it halted mining operations in the 90 mines.
On Monday, the bench also said there would be no grant of lease for mining around one kilometre of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and directed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to identify eco-sensitive areas around national parks within six months.
The bench said workers on rolls of all mining firms would be paid 50 per cent of their wages for the period when they were out of work due to the SC-ordered stay on mining activity.
On March 27, while reserving its order on putting an annual cap on the volume of iron ore to be extracted, the bench had observed that it couldn’t go into the policy matter and would only address the regulatory aspect.