The Goa government on Monday ordered suspension of operations at all 91 mines which have leases in the state, till further orders. Trading of iron ore that is mined and lying in the lease area, or in transit or stored on the jetties is however allowed.
The state Directorate of Mines and Geology's circular suspending operations came days after the Centre-appointed Justice MB Shah Commission's final report, which pegged the mining scam at about Rs. 35,000 crore, was tabled in Parliament.
The report has indicted former Goa CM Digambar Kamat, who held the mines portfolio between 1999 and 2011, and recommended that "all mining activities be stopped with immediate effect, including transportation for all mining leases where there is no approval or clearance of the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife and [those] falling within the 10km eco-sensitive buffer zone".
HT has, in a series of reports, revealed how illegal mining has cost Goa more than Rs. 3,000 crore. Some estimates put the losses at Rs. 10,000 crore.
Lease holders have now been directed to report details of the ore, including quantity, grade, and location, to mines director Prasanna Acharya. Teams from the mines, forest and revenue departments will carry out inspections based on this information provided by lease holders.
The state has also decided to constitute a verification and clearance committee that will examine documents and various approvals obtained by lease holders. Those with valid clearances will be allowed to start operations when the mining season restarts in October.
Environmentalists, though, have criticised the move to allow lease holders to trade mined ore.
"Trading ore from these mines is a criminal offence since it has been mined in violation of various laws. Lease holders must not be allowed to touch the material. The ore should be seized," said Claude Alvares, director, Goa Foundation, that has filed petitions in the Bombay High Court against illegal mining.
Alvares added, "The Shah Commission has examined every piece of paper lease holders were asked to submit. So where is the question of re-examining them? This is a ploy by the government; it will clear all the papers and allow mines to re-open in October."
The government is at present examining the Shah Commission report, following which it will act and file an action taken report.