Goa govt blinks first, shows willingness to auction iron ore mines
The Goa government has signalled a change of heart and a willingness to auction dormant leases in a bid to restart mining in the state, halted since March 2018 after the Supreme Court cancelled Goa’s mining renewals.
On return from Delhi, where he held a meeting with the Union home minister Amit Shah, also attended by the ministers of mines and petroleum, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said that a ‘solution’ through auctions was being considered.
“We will come out with a solution through auctions. We want the mining activity to resume once again. So thinking of all this we have arrived at a consensus that we can work out a similar solution,” Sawant told reporters.
Sawant’s announcement is a marked departure from the State government’s policy which, till date, has resisted auctions owing to what former chief minister Manohar Parrikar described as ‘inviting unknown business interests, who are often referred to as mining mafia, to carry out and undertake mining activities.’
Mining in Goa is stuck in a deadlock with the Supreme Court directing that the state issue fresh leases and the MMDR Act in its current form mandating that any grant of fresh leases should be through a process of auction.
Auctions could throw open Goa’s mines, hitherto held by a handful of family run companies, to bigger players from across the country.
Sawant admitted that the Goa government was reluctant to opt for auctions, but hastened to add that it was only because of the interests of the mining workers, truckers, etc who he feared might be offloaded with new players entering the industry and not to protect the interests of the existing mine owners.
“We were worried about the local workers, truck owners, machinery owners, farmers, etc. If tomorrow someone from outside wins a bid then would these people who were onboard with the existing operators, be left behind? Hence we were trying for a different solution (than auction),” Sawant said.
Goa’s mining industry lobby, the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association, mainly consisting of family-owned businesses which were granted the mining concessions by the erstwhile Portuguese colonial regime and has run the mines since then has remained guarded while responding to the change of stance.
“We are awaiting a joint meeting being scheduled by the Union of India with the state government and the industry in order to find a legally prudent solution considering legal and technical aspects of Goa mining,” the GMOEA said in a statement.
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