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Detailed report: Story of BRAZEN illegal mining in Goa

December 08, 2012 01:43 IST
The mining scam had first rocked Karnataka and now Goa. While the mess in Karnataka is well known, the scenario in Goa is no different. The Central Empowered Committee in its interim report on illegal mining in Goa has found various illegalities in its detailed report, a copy of which is with Rediff.com.

The report gives a horrific picture of how brazenly illegal mining took place in Goa.

In brief the CEC has this to say:

Mining operations in Goa have violated with impunity the relevant Acts, rules and regulations. The environmental clearances, in a large number of cases, have been accorded for the mining leases located within 1 km of the national park/sanctuary and which are in violation.

During the last two years more than 20 Million MT of iron ore is stated to have been produced from the overburden dumps located outside the mining lease areas without environmental clearance, approved mining plan and / or approval of competent authorities.

A very large number of mining leases were being operated by persons other than the lessees and in flagrant violation of the provisions of the MCR, 1960 and in all probability with the tacit approval of the state government. Based on the unregistered and dubious general power of attorneys and other documents, the mining lease have been allowed to be operated by persons having clout by treating the leases granted to individual persons as those granted to partnership firms and the inclusion of such persons as partners in the firms (and retirement of the genuine lease holders). Two of such leases were being operated by the subsidiaries of a company registered outside India.

As per the details provided by the Goan Mineral Ore Exporters' Association, out of about 38.25 MMT iron ore exported in 2011-2012, about 14.9 MMT (39%) was exported by M/s Sesa Goa Ltd. and M/s Sesa Resources Ltd., about 7.4 MMT (19%) by Fomanto Group of Companies and about 3.9 MMT (10%) by M/s Salgaokar Group of Companies. The balance about 32% of the exports was accounted for by others.

As per the information provided by the State of Goa (i) out of the 19 mining leases the TC No. 31/58, 67/51, 6/53 and 17/52 (at Sr. No. 3,5,7 and 9 of the statement at annexure R-12 of this Report) fell partly within the Sanctuary. In addition to the above said 19 mining leases, the environment clearance for one more mining lease (TC No.55/53) falling within the National Park / Sanctuary has been granted by the MoEF. (ii) three of such mining leases (TC No. 20/51, 31/55 and 55/53) have operated in one or more years during the last five years. The balance 17 mining leases have not operated during the last five years.

In a number of Environmental Clearances the locations of the mining leases have been shown to be outside the sanctuary whereas the mining leases are located within the sanctuary. Even after the correct position was brought to its notice, the environment clearances were not cancelled / withdrawn;

In these circumstances the CEC is of the considered view that it is imperative that the environmental clearances granted by the MoEF in respect of these 19 mining leases located within the Wildlife Sanctuaries (and for other similarly placed leases) should be set aside and responsibility should be fixed  against the erring officers and others.

MoEF should not have granted the Environmental Clearances for mining leases located within a distance of 1 km from the boundaries of the nearby National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries. Environmental Clearances granted prior to 4th August, 2006 to such mining leases should have been withdrawn;

After 4th August, 2006 the MoEF and the State of Goa should not have permitted the mining operations within a distance of 1 km from the National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries.

The environmental clearances and other statutory approvals for such mining leases should be set aside.

The responsibility for allowing mining operations (in at least 23 mining leases) should be fixed and follow-up action be taken.

Mining leases located within 10 kilometers from national parks:

There are about 120 mining leases located within a distance of 10 km from the National Park / Sanctuary for which Environmental Clearances have been granted by the MoEF. This is in addition to the 19 mining leases located within the Sanctuary and the 23 mining leases located upto a distance of 1 km from the National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Out of the 120 mining leases, as many as 78 mining leases have been operating. The remaining about 42 mining leases have not been operating

As per the information provided by the State of Goa to the CEC out of these 120 mining leases as many as 103 mining leases actually fall within 1 to 10 km, one lease falls within the Sanctuary itself, 8 leases fall within one km of the National Park / Sanctuary and another 8 leases fall beyond 10 km. Out of the 103 mining leases 74 are working mining leases and the remaining 29 are non-working mining leases.  In addition another 10 'working' mining leases also fall within 10 km of the National Park / Sanctuary. The lease-wise details of the 84 working mining leases falling within 10 km, together with details of the 23 working mining leases, falling within 1 km of the National Park / Sanctuary.

The CCF (Central), MoEF Regional Office in the above said letter stated that (i) the environmental clearances of the cases in which mining is taking place without the approval of the CWLW / NBWL need to be kept in abeyance and appropriate action initiated; (ii) action needs to be initiated in respect of the  case in which mining has been carried out prior to the approval of the CWLW; (iii)  in order to ensure that the mining does not take place without the approval of the competent authority (i.e. Standing Committee, NBWL), the MoEF may consider keeping all the 61 environment clearances in abeyance with immediate effect and make them effective from the date of approval under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 by the competent authority (by the Standing Committee, NBWL); (iv) in respect of TC No.24/57, it is to be examined if there is need to modify the present conditions and to stipulate the approval of the Standing Committee, NBWL; (v) in respect of six cases, the MoEF may look into whether the clearance should be made effective from the date of approval of the Standing Committee, NBWL and (vi) the MoEF may review the ECs in respect of 24 mining leases to stipulate the condition of approval of  the Standing Committee, NBWL.   

The MoEF, instead of placing the Environmental Clearances before the Standing Committee of the NBWL and / or  taking action on the submissions made by the Regional Office, MoEF regarding modifying the conditions of the environmental clearances so that they become operative only after clearance by the Standing Committee, NBWL,  vide its letter dated 19th January, 2012 addressed to its Regional Office, Bangalore stated that it had through DAVP issued a public Notice during December, 2008 regarding Hon'ble Supreme Court's order and that it had also addressed a letter dated 6th January, 2012 to the various departments / agencies of the State Government of Goa and the Chairman, CPCP requesting them to take action, unit by unit against all those units operating in violation of the various acts and rules.

It is seen from the details provided to the CEC that ultimately out of 162 mining leases located within 10 kms. of National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries, except four cases of the mining leases falling within one km of the Sanctuary, none of the remaining 156 cases (including 19 located within the National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries and another 19 located within a distance of 1 km)  have been placed before the Standing Committee, NBWL. The mining operations were allowed to continue.

It is also seen from the mining lease-wise production details  provided by the IBM that most of the production of iron ore has taken place from the mining leases located within 10 kms. of the National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries. From the details provided by the State of Goa also it is seen that out of 118 working mining leases only 11 mining leases are located beyond 10 km of the National Park / Sanctuary.

The CEC, in the above background, is of the considered view that (a) all EC's granted for mining leases located upto a distance of 10 kms. from the National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries (excluding for the mining leases located within the National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries  and within a distance of 1 km which have separately been recommended  to be set aside) should be directed to be held in abeyance;

Mining lease being operated in violation by persons other than lessees

As stated earlier, under section 4 of the Abolition Act, 1987 the mining concessions granted in perpetuity under the 1906 decree of the Protégées Government have been converted into deemed mining leases under the MMDR Act, 1957. The details of the erstwhile concession holders and who became the lease holders of the deemed mining leases are provided in the First schedule and Second schedule of the Abolition Act, 1987. As provided under section 4(3) of the said Act, any error, omission or misdescription in relation to the particulars of a mining concession or the concession holder can be modified only by issue of a notification by the Central Government.

As per the information, a very large number of mining leases are being operated by person(s) other than the lease holders and in flagrant violation of the Rule 37(1) of MCR, 1960.

On examination of the details it is seen that a very large number of mining leases are prima-facie operating in flagrant violation of Rule, 37, MCR, 1960 in the State of Goa. Complaints have been made to the State Government with regard to a number of leases that the said leases were being operated by person(s) other than the lessees but apparently no effective action has been taken even though under the the MCR, 1960 for violation of the Rule, 37, a very severe penalty i.e. determination of the mining lease itself has been provided. On the contrary the State of Government took the stand that the working of the mining leases by a person other than the lease holder is a prevailing mining practice in Goa and that these facts are in the knowledge of the Government. The case of TC No. 14/52, dealt with in subsequent paragraphs, vividly highlighted the manner in which allegations of mining leases being illegally operated by person(s) other than the lease holder were dealt with by the State of Goa.

The concession TC No. 14/52 was granted to Badrudin Bhavani, of Margao, an individual on 22nd February, 1952. The said concession became a deemed mining lease under the Abolition Act, 1987. In the First schedule of the Abolition Act, 1987, the name of the concession holder is also stated to be Badrudin Bavani, of Margao (refer S.No. 134 of the First schedule of the Abolition Act, 1987.

Presently, the said mining lease is being operated in the name and style of a partnership firm namely M/s Badruddin HussainBhai Mavani. As per the copies of the balance sheets of the said partnership firm filed before the CEC in the financial year ending 31st March, 2011, M/s Timblo Pvt. Ltd., Radha S. Timblo and Chetan Timblo were the partners in the said firm and had share in the net profit / loss in the ratio of 55%, 30% and 15% respectively. During the financial year ending 31st March, 2012 the partners are M/s Timblo Pvt. Ltd. and Radha S. Timblo and their share in the net profit / loss is in the ration of 95% and 5% respectively. Mr. Chetan S. Timblo was not a partner after 31st March, 2011.

The mining lease has been renewed for a period of 20 years with effect from 2nd September, 1987 upto 21st November, 2007. The lease deed has been executed on 8th April, 2008 between the State of Goa and the said partnership firm represented by  Chetan Satish Timblo.

The following are the serious illegalities

The mining concession was granted in the name of Badrudin Bavani (an individual). It became a deemed mining lease with Badrudin Bavani being the lease holder (an individual). No notification has been issued under section 4(3) of the Abolition Act, 1987 for the change in the name of the lease holder. The State of Goa has not passed any formal order for the transfer of the mining lease from an individual to a partnership firm. However, the mining lease has been operated by a partnership firm for the last many years.

The first renewal of the mining lease has been approved by the State of Goa in the name of a partnership firm namely M/s Badrudin Hussain Bhai Mavani (the name is almost identical to that of the lease holder). The lease holder has neither any financial stake nor any control in the said partnership firm. M/s Timblo Pvt. Ltd. and Radha S. Timblo are the partners in the said partnership firm. Thus the ownership of the said mining lease has been illegally taken over by the Timblo family.

The State of Goa was fully aware of the serious illegalities involved. However, instead of taking punitive action in accordance with the law, it disregarded the serious illegalities and chose to grant the renewal of the mining lease in favour of the partnership firm owned and under control of Timblo family. This involved very serious illegalities and should not have been permitted;

The violation of Rule, 37 MCR, 1960 was brushed aside by the State Government by taking the stand that as per the prevailing mining practice such type of arrangement are existing in Goa whereby the mining leases are worked by a person other than the lease holder and these facts are in the knowledge of the State Government and that the present case is therefore not unusual in that sense;

A general power of attorney dated 12th January, 1979 was executed by Mr. Mawani (the name stated in the First schedule of the Abolition Act, 1987 is  Bavani) in favour of M.P. Kudchadkar and Mr. Subash F. Bhandari. The said Power of Attorney authorised them to enter into contracts for extraction of mineral, sale of mineral, transfer of the mining lease etc. The Law Department of the State of Goa took the stand that by virtue of the above said Power of Attorney the working and control of the mining lease has been entrusted to the attorneys and which is in violation of Rule, 37 of MCR, 1960 and therefore action for the determination of the lease may be initiated. However, no effective action for determination of the lease was taken;

The ownership and control of the said lease by the Timblo family (through the partnership firm) was justified by them by producing before the State Government another Power of Attorney dated 5th November, 1997, stated to have been executed by Mavani in favour of Radha S. Timblo. In the said Power of Attorney it is mentioned that Mavani is staying in Karachi, Pakistan. The said document was not registered or notarised or signed in the presence of witness. As stated in the noting of 5th December, 2008 of the Special Secretary (Development) the signature of the Badrudin Hussain Bhai Mavani in this Power of Attorney does not tally with the earlier signature done on the earlier General Power of Attorney executed in 1979.

The General Power of Attorney and other similar documents signed abroad and received in India are required to be routed through the District Magistrate / verified by the Indian Embassy / Consulate and which has not been done in the present case. Mr. Mavani is stated to have died in Pakistan. No information about the place and date on which Mavani died in Pakistan was available with the State Government. On the face of it, the said General Power of Attorney was in blatant violation of Rule 37 MCR, 1960. In the above circumstances, the above said document stated to be irrevocable General Power of Attorney should not have been accepted by the State of Goa at all;

Based on the General Power of Attorney dated 5th November, 1997 (whose genuineness and legality and veracity is highly doubtful), Radha Satish Timblo in her capacity as the General Power of Attorney holder of Mavani and on behalf of  Mavani, executed a deed of partnership dated 10th August, 1988 and by which she along with M/s Timblo Pvt. Ltd. and Chetan Satish Timblo became the partners in the said partnership firm namely M/s Badrudin Hussain Bhai Mavani. In another Deed of Partnership dated 27th March, 2002 Abdul Sultan Mavani (son of Mr. Mavani) was included as a partner in place of Mavani, stated to have died. The date of his death is not mentioned in the partnership deed. This was also not brought to the notice of the State Government. None of the above two partnership deeds were registered. By another Reconstitution of Partnership Deed dated 7th April, 2005 Abdul Sultan Mavani is stated to have retired from the partnership. This partnership deed is signed by  Anup Mahatme in his capacity as the Power of Attorney holder of  Abdul Mavani. This was also not a registered deed. Copy of the said Power of Attorney was not available with the State Government. These partnership deeds, in addition to being highly dubious, are in clear violation of the Rule 37, MCR, 1960 and should never have been accepted by the State Government.

From the above, it is seen that the mining lease was granted in the name of an individual and who had migrated to Pakistan and died there. He was never involved in operating the mining lease or seeking renewal of the mining lease. The mining lease has been allowed to be operated illegally by a partnership firm comprising of M/s Timblo Pvt. Ltd., Smt. Radha S. Timblo and others. The mining lease has been renewed by the State of Goa in favour of the partnership firm owned and controlled by Timblo family by disregarding and in blatant violation of Rule 37, MCR, 1960 and on the basis of an unregistered Power of Attorney, stated to have been executed by the lessee while staying in Pakistan and whose genuineness and validity was highly dubious and doubtful. Even though all the facts in the matter were available with the State Government it chose to ignore them and the lease granted in favour of an individual was illegally allowed to be converted into a partnership firm owned by Timblo family.

Unfortunately the above case is not an isolated case. There are many more cases involving serious violation of Rule 37, MCR, 1960. For example, the mining concession TC No. 12/53 was granted to Voicunta Canecar, of Margao and has become a deemed mining leases under section 4 of the Abolition Act, 1987 (refer S.No. 207 of the First schedule of the Abolition Act, 1987). On the perusal of the documents provided by the Petitioner it is seen that the environmental clearance for the mining lease has been granted in favour of M/s Ajit Kadnekar and that the mining lease was being operated by M/s Magnum Minerals, which is a fully owned subsidiary of M/s Teera Nova Royalty Corporation registered in British Colombia, Canada.

As per the Justice M.B. Shah Commission Report, the environmental clearance for the above said mining lease was granted without stipulating the clearance by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife, the renewal of mining lease has been done without obtaining approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the delay in filing of the renewal application has been illegally condoned and the lease is involved in encroachment beyond the lease area by way of illegal mining pits. Ajit Kadnekar claims to be a owner of the lease. However no formal order for transfer of the lease in his favour has ever been issued. The mining operations after the issue of the show cause notice to him by the State of Goa have ceased from 10th April, 2012 onwards.

In the above case, the operation of the mining lease has been done in violation of the Rule 37, MCR, 1960 and that too by a subsidiary of a Company registered abroad. M/s Magnum Minerals is also alleged to have been operating TC No. 75/52. In this case also Ajit Kadnekar claims to be the owner of the lease even though apparently the State Government has not passed any formal order for transfer of the lease in his favour. A number of other serious violations are also stated to have taken place in this lease.

After considering the details given in the above said annual returns the CEC is of the view that prima-facie the said mining lease is being operated in violation of Rule, 37 of MCR, 1960 (for which a detailed enquiry needs to be held) and that the details of the production and dispatch figures of the mineral are not reliable at all.

The CEC is of the considered view that prima facie a large number of mining leases are being operated by the person(s) other than the lease holders and in flagrant violation of Rule 37, MCR, 1960. In a number of cases, the mining leases were granted in favour of individual previous and have been converted into partnership firms and which are owned by influential persons. The State of Goa has not taken any effective steps in the matter.

In view of the above, the CEC is of the view that it would be appropriate that the details of all the mining leases in the State of Goa are verified with reference to the available records and wherever there are reasonable doubts that the mining lease is / was being operated by a person other than the lease holder detailed enquiry should be held. For this purpose, if required the concerned lease holder may be asked to provide the year wise details of the expenditure incurred by him towards the cost of raising mineral, payment of royalty etc, the sale price received by him and the gross income and the net income from the mining lease for the last five years.

In respect of the mining leases for which such details are not received from the respective lease holder and / or are not found to be reliable the statutory clearances given for the mining lease should be held in abeyance and the mining operations should not be allowed to be restarted till a detailed enquiry is carried out. In respect of the mining leases which are found to have operated in violation of Rule 37, MCR, 1960, the process of the determination of the leases in accordance with the legal provision should be taken in a time bound manner.        

Lack of control on production:

In the other major iron producing states, such as Karnataka and Orissa, the lessees are required to periodically file the production details of the iron ore (and other mineral) and which are then verified by the authorized officers of the Mining Department.  Thereafter, the lessees deposit the royalty for the various grades of lumps and fines after which the transit permits are issued by the Mines Department for transportation of specified quantities of iron ore from the mining lease to designated places. In addition, in the State of Karnataka the vehicle-wise forest permits are issued for the mining leases located in forest areas.

The transportation of the mineral is not permissible without a valid transit permit. The quantity of mineral for which the permits are issued are required to be transported within the stipulated period. The iron ore under transit is verified at the strategically located check posts and if any variation in the quantity of the iron ore being transported is found with reference to the quantity for which valid permits have been issued, in such a case the mineral become liable for seizure. The exact quantity of iron ore that has been legally extracted and transported from each of the mining lease can be ascertained on the basis of the details of the quantities for which the royalty has been paid and the transit permits have been issued.

Unlike the other major iron ore producing States, no such system exists in the State of Goa. There is no system of periodic verification of the iron ore produced in the mining leases, payment of royalty after such verification, issue of permits for transportation of mineral by the Mining Department, issue of transit permits by the Forest Department, reconciliation of the quantity of the  mineral stated to have been produced in the mining lease with the quantity of the  mineral for which royalty has been paid and transit permits have been issued.

It may be seen that as against the total production of 1553.724 lakh MT. of iron ore between 2006-07 to 2010-11 a total quantity of 1949.369 lakh MT of iron ore of Goan origin has been exported i.e. the total quantity of iron ore exported is 395.645 lakh MT more than the total quantity of iron ore reported to have been legally produced. In addition part of the iron ore   produced has been used for domestic consumption. There is every reason to believe that the excess quantity of iron ore that has been exported is the illegally mined iron ore.

The CEC is of the considered view that in view of (a) the complete absence of an effective system of checks and balances regarding the actual quantities of mineral produced and transported  from the mining leases and verification of the mineral during transit, (b) lack of reliable details of the legal and illegal overburden dumps lying within the lease and outside the lease and (c) in the absence of the reliable data regarding sub-grade mineral available in each of the overburden dumps within the lease and outside the lease and also (d) in the absence of any effective mechanism to regulate the working of the overburden dumps, particularly lying outside the lease area, the production details of the mineral stated to have been extracted from the overburden dumps cannot be accepted. 

The CEC does not agree with the contention of the State Govt. that the extraction of minerals from the overburden dumps, lying within the lease area or outside the lease area, is not a mining activity under the provisions of the MMDR Act and therefore neither requires a mining lease nor requires environmental clearance.

During the site visit, the CEC came across a massive dump at Advai, stated to being operated by a group company of M/s Sesa Goa. The dump, almost 2 km in length and about 90 m. in height, is said to be the largest overburden dump in Goa. The dump has apparently blocked the natural stream 'Advai nallah' and which used to flow perennially and irrigated the nearby fields and orchards.

The CEC is of the considered view that overburden/waste dumps should normally be located within the mining lease itself.  The production of the mineral should be regulated in such a way that there is adequate area available within the lease area itself for the overburden / waste dumps. The permission for keeping the overburden dumps outside the mining lease area should be granted only in exceptional circumstances and not in a routine manner.

The CEC is also of the considered view that in order to ensure effective checks on the illegal mining and other illegalities it is imperative that the State of Goa immediately puts in place an effective system of verification of the mineral produced from the mining leases, issue of transit passes, verification of transit passes during transit of mineral and reconciliation of the production with domestic consumption and exports. Till then the mining leases should not be allowed to resume mining operations. 

Infrastructure:

During the year 2010-11 about 468.46 lakh MT Goan iron ore was exported.  In addition, substantial quantities brought from other states were also exported and some quantity was used for domestic consumption. 

Presuming that on an average in each trip 10 MT of iron ore is transported by the trucks, the movement of about 100 lakh trucks will be required, (including for return journey) for transportation of about 500 lakh MT of iron ore to the water ways and sites of the steel and allied industries. 

For 300 working days in a year this would imply daily movement of more than 30,000 trucks for the transportation of iron ore and for the return journey by the empty trucks. The existing infrastructure availability in Goa is grossly inadequate to handle the movement of such a large number of trucks. 

Other issues:

As per the environment clearances granted by the MoEF to the 183 mining leases the total permitted production would work out to around 65 Million MT per annum. In addition, there are a number of other mining leases for which the terms of reference have been approved by the MoEF and the public hearings are in progress or have concluded. The existing infrastructure facilities, the proven and probable mineral reserves and the area available for overburden dumps will under no circumstances permit such a level of mining in an environmentally sustainable basis, There is therefore a real need to prescribe a cap on the maximum permissible annual production from all the mining leases located in each of the four talukas.

There are a large number of mining leases wherein the extraction of mineral below the ground water table has been permitted / is being undertaken. During the site visit the CEC received a number of representations that the mining below the ground level is adversely affecting the water availability in the nearby areas and such mining is damaging the aquifers and consequently the charging of the ground water is adversely affected. It has also been represented that such mining is resulting in increased salinity of the ground water and that the silt deposition from the mining overburden has degraded the soil fertility in the adjoining agricultural fields. Almost all the dug wells have dried up.

The CEC is of the view that it would be appropriate that the mining below the ground water level is permitted only in exceptional circumstances and with adequate checks and balances. The mining operations below the ground water level should be permitted only after a detailed study for such mining leases is carried out and it is conclusively established that mining operations are not likely to adversely affect the availability of potable water for the local population and will not have any adverse environmental impact on the water regime. 

During the site visit the CEC visited three mining leases located in the forest areas falling in the catchments area of Selaulim Dam and which meets the drinking water requirement of South Goa.  During the site visit a number of representations were received by the CEC stating that the mining leases including the above three have been contaminating the water supply in the reservoir thereby adversely affecting the quality of potable water in the Dam.

In view of the sensitive location of the mining leases vis-à-vis the catchment area of the Selaulim Dam which supplies drinking water to the South Goa, it would be prudent that an indepth study is undertaken by a reputed organization regarding the impact of the mining on the Selaulim Dam and a decision for allowing such mining leases may be taken only after considering the study report.  Till then the lessees should not be allowed to resume mining operations. 

There are about 42 mining leases which had filed first renewal applications after the due date and delay has been condoned by the State Government (apparently without any authority). As per the information provided by the State Government 8 of such mining leases have operated during the last 5 years (even though the applications for the first renewal were filed beyond the stipulated time and were not eligible to continue mining operations).

Conclusion:

From the above details it may be seen that the mining operations in Goa have violated with impunity the relevant Acts, Rules and Regulations. The environmental clearances, in a large number of cases, have been accorded for the mining leases located within 1 km of the National Park / Sanctuary and which are in violation. In fact, many of them were granted for the mining leases located within the National Park / Sanctuary itself.

A large number of such mining leases have operated. The MoEF by its various actions and in-actions ensured that the EC's granted for the mining leases located within a distance of 10 km of the National Park / Sanctuary remain effective without the same being considered and cleared by the Standing Committee, NBWL.

While the IBM as well as the State Government were totally dependent on the details mentioned in the monthly / annual returns filed by the lease holder, there are substantial differences in the production details maintained by the IBM and those provided by the State Government (and which also vary from time to time).

The total quantity of iron ore exported during the last 5 years is much more than the quantity legally produced. There is no system of issue of transit passes or verifying the quantity of mineral produced in the mining lease before the transportation takes place.

During the last two years more than 20 Million MT of iron ore is stated to have been produced from the overburden dumps located outside the mining lease areas without environmental clearance, approved mining plan and/ or approval of competent authorities. There was no system of verifying the actual quantity of mineral produced from such overburden dumps. In the prevailing situation it is quite likely that a substantial part of such production was reported by the concerned lease holders to cover the difference between the quantity of iron ore exported by them and the quantity of iron ore legally produced. 

A very large number of mining leases were being operated by persons other than the lessees and in flagrant violation of the provisions of the MCR, 1960 and in all probability with the tacit approval of the State Government. Based on the unregistered and dubious General Power of Attorneys and other documents, the mining lease have been allowed to be operated by persons having clout by treating the leases granted to individual persons as those granted to partnership firms and the inclusion of such persons as partners in the firms (and retirement of the genuine lease holders). Two of such leases were being operated by the subsidiaries of a company registered outside India.

The Mining Plans / Schemes of Mining have been approved for a cluster of mining leases and which was not permissible. In a number of mining leases the mining operations were being carried out below the ground water level. 

In respect of a large number of mining leases, the Shah Commission had found that illegal mining by way of illegal mining pits, illegal overburden dumps, etc. outside the sanctioned mining lease areas has taken place. 

As seen earlier the mining activity in the State of Goa is mainly confined to four Talukas namely Sanguem and Quelpem in District South Goa and Sattari and Bicholim in District North Goa.  Since 2002 there has been a significant increase in the mining activity of Goa.

The export figures indicate that the production of iron ore rose from around 16.69 MT in 2002-2003 to 48.84 MT in the year 2010-2011. This sharp increase in production has had a severe impact on the environment and the ecology of Goa.

Goa receives annual rainfall of about 5000 mm. It has 11 rivers with 42 tributaries running across the mining leases. There are dense evergreen and semi evergreen forests and forms part of the internationally recognized biodiversity hot spots -- the Western Ghats region with rich flora and fauna.

The National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in the 1980's has documented large scale mortality of clams and other fishes because of the mining sediments, then estimated to be about 60,000 tons, forming a thick blanket on the estuarine floors and which entered the rivers from mining dumps and other related activities. This was when the production of the iron ores was around 10 to 12 million tons per annum.

However, with the production of iron ore from the year 2009-10 increasing to around 48 million tons per annum the sediment load flowing into the river must be around 2 lakh tons a year with consequential irreversible damage to the sensitive Rive Zuari and Mandovi estuaries complex said to be the largest in the country.

The bulk of mining leases are in areas of forest or natural vegetation and consequentially mining has taken a heavy toll of the Goa's natural vegetation and wildlife.  Acute damage has also been caused to the ground water aquifers because of indiscriminate mining below ground water level which in turn have in several areas adversely affected agricultural activities.

The statutory Regional Plan for Goa has estimated that about 10,000 ha. of agricultural lands have been rendered unproductive and out of use because of mining. The study carried out by NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur) in 2010 on the impact of three mining leases in village Shirgao has confirmed the destruction of ground water aquifers. Consequently villages such as Shirgao, Pissurlem, Velguem and Surla now get their water supply through tankers.

It is stated that about 26,000 trucks used to move in the narrow roads of the said four talukas thereby endangering the health and safety of the people. In fact it has been reported that the accidents caused by rampant and reckless overloaded trucks take at least one life a week.

A report of The Energy Research Institute (TERI) indicates the high prevalence of respiratory diseases among the residents of these four talukas compared to those living in the coastal areas. The peace and tranquility of the residents of these four talukas has been severely affected because of indiscriminate mining and unregulated related activities.

The environmental clearances granted by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India (MoEF)  for the 19 mining leases located within the Wildlife Sanctuaries and for another 23 mining leases located within a distance of upto 1 km from the boundaries of nearby National Parks / Sanctuaries (and in other similarly placed cases), being in violation.

Image: An illegal mining operation. Picture only for representation
Photographs Courtesy: digitalgoa.com

Vicky Nanjappa