Nearly one-and-a-half years after it banned mining in Goa, the Supreme Court on Monday allowed an annual cap of 20 million tonnes of iron ore extraction in the state. The final capacity that will be allowed to be mined in the state will be decided by an expert panel within the next six months.
A special forest bench headed by Justice AK Patnaik said the panel would also advise how the extracted dumps are to be utilised. Further, no mining lease would be granted around one kilometre of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, the court said, directing the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to identify such eco-sensitive areas. If further said there cannot be deemed renewal of lease after 2007.
The Goa government has been ordered to formulate a scheme within six months for utilising the funds generated by e-auction.
Workers on rolls for all mining firms will he paid 50% of the wage during the period for which they were out of work due to the SC stay order, the court said.
The SC had on March 27 reserved its order on putting the annual cap on the volume of iron ore to be extracted in Goa. The court had made clear that it cannot go into policy matters and will only address the regulatory aspect involved in it.
The various caveats notwithstanding, the lifting of the ban has been welcomed by miners. Mining accounts for nearly a fourth of Goa’s GDP and around 70,000 people are directly dependent on it.
The ban had paralysed Sesa Sterlite, India’s largest iron ore exporter, which will be the biggest beneficiary of Monday’s judgement. Following the news of the order, the company’s stock surged 9.2% to Rs. 202 on the BSE on Monday. The company welcomed the ruling.
“Sesa Sterlite welcomes the news on lifting of the iron ore mining ban in Goa, announced by the Supreme Court today. We will work constructively with the central and state government authorities, to restart mining. Sesa Sterlite is committed to following responsible and sustainable mining practices,” it said in a statement
“This is a very welcome decision. It will help put Goa’s industry back on track,” said RK Sharma, secretary-general, Federation of Indian Mineral Industries. “The economy had come to a standstill due to the ban. The resumption may not be immediate but gradually it will start looking up.”