Lifting a year-long embargo,the Supreme Court on Monday allowed e-auctioning of nearly 11.5 million tonnes of excavated iron ore lying unused in Goa under the supervision of a court-mandated committee.
The e-auctioning would be conducted under the supervision of a three-member committee which will have former bureaucrats UB Singh and S Naiumuddin as members. The third member will be an officer,not below the rank of a joint secretary.
The apex court,which on October 5 last year had stopped mining,transportation and export of iron ore in Goa following a report of irregularities by the Justice MB Shah Commission,also ordered setting up of another six-member panel which would file its report by February 15,2014,suggesting the annual cap on volume of iron ore to be extracted.
The court said that the amount collected from the e-auctioning shall be kept as fixed deposits and separate lease-wise accounts must also be maintained. Reading from its draft order,the bench of Justices AK Patnaik,SS Nijjar and FM Ibrahim Kalifulla,said the six- member panel will have one representative each from ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and the department of mining besides an ecologoist,a geologist,a mineralogist and an expert on forest.
Asking the Centre and others to come up with the names of experts by November 18,it clarified that this committee of experts shall give the report as to what should be the ceiling on mining. The six-member panel would look into the issues of fixing the annual cap on iron ore mining by keeping in view the principle of inter-generational equity and the environment- carrying capacity,it said. The issue of environment-carrying capacity relates to what extent the environment and surroundings of a mine can sustain or bear ore extraction activities.
Earlier,Goa Foundation ,a non-governmental organisation,had filed the PIL on alleged illegal iron ore extraction in the state. The bench,which said the copy of its order be sent to the members of the panel,observed that it would pronounce the verdict on the PIL after the filing of the report by the expert committee on February 15,next year. Earlier,it had said that an interim order would be passed relating to constitution of panels for looking into various aspects of iron ore mining in Goa.
The bench had also reserved the verdict on the issue of allowing mining operations in the state which had been halted following the report of the high-level commission headed by Justice Shah indicting all miners,saying illegal extraction of iron ore during the past 12 years had caused a loss of Rs 35,000 crore to the state exchequer.
Earlier,the Goa government had said that 45 million tonnes of iron ore extraction can be allowed annually. The state had sought the permission from the court to transport and export 11.48 million tonnes of already excavated iron ore,lying unused following the ban on mining.