Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat on Monday steered himself clear of the controversies surrounding illegal mining activities in the coastal state claiming that he himself was a crusader against this increasing phenomenon.
"During my tenure as mines minister in last ten years, I have never supported illegal mining. Forget that..I have not renewed a single mining lease or permitted new lease in my tenure," Kamat told PTI in an interview here.
Kamat, who is facing allegations of shielding multi-crore mining scam, said that it was only after he informed the then union environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh about irregularities in Environment Clearances (ECs), that the moratorium was issued on new leases and renewals.
"In February 2010, I had told the Union ministry that ECs were given despite objections raised by locals during the public hearings," he recalled.
The chief minister said that the situation in Goa is not as grave as Karnataka.
"Things are being blown out of proportion in certain sections of the media. Goa government has been acting against illegalities in mining sector whenever they are brought to the notice," he claimed.
Kamat said few people were mining ore in their farms.
"We have cracked down on such illegal minings and also fined them for crores of rupees," he said in an apparent reference to the recent case against NCP leader Jitendra Deshprabhu who was arrested for illegal mining in his property.
The chief minister said the state has been insisting for No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from the Mines department, which shippers need to produce before exporting the ore.
"These are the steps to curb illegal trade and evasion of royalty," he said.
"Both the ports - Mormugao Port Trust and Panaji port, are adhering to this norm," he added.
Kamat said the decision on new leases or renewal would be taken only after the state has its mineral policy in place.
The chief minister said in the meantime, all the mine owners have been asked not to touch the old ore dumps till they are registered with the department.
"We are trying to ascertain how many dumps are existing in the state and whether exports are made from these dumps or from fresh extraction," he said.
Kamat said the state has no machinery in place to ascertain whether ore is a fresh extraction or ferried from the old dumps.
Goa has 90 mining leases which exports around 54 million metric tonnes of ore, majority of which is Iron ore.
The Central government-constituted Shah Commission is currently investigating into the illegalities in the mining sector. A rough estimate reveals that the mining illegalities are between Rs 1,200-10,000 crore.