Goa ropes in SBI for fresh auctions of mining leases before assembly polls
The Goa government has roped in State Bank of India to help it auction leases for “six to eight” mining blocksvia its newly created mineral development corporation, chief minister Pramod Sawant announced on Wednesday after a meeting of the state cabinet.
Sawant said the auctions were likely to take place in December and besides the State Bank of India, the Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL) was helping in identifying the leases to be auctioned.
“The cabinet has given approval to MECL for assessment of mineral ore for phase one of the auction. We are auctioning around six to eight blocks. ...they are exploring which blocks will be eventually selected. After that auctioning will be conducted by the State Bank of India,” Sawant told reporters.
Iron Ore mining in Goa has remained suspended since March 16, 2018 after 88 mining leases renewed by the Goa government across 2014-15 were rendered defunct and cancelled by a Supreme Court order in February 2018. The mining industry was a major revenue and employment generator for the state and at its peak contributed close to 15% of the state’s GDP.
The state is now eager to restart mining ahead of the upcoming assembly polls by holding fresh auction process (that includes obtaining fresh environmental clearances) as per the directions of the apex court after its several attempts to challenge or circumvent court order did not yield desired results.
Sawant didn’t specify which leases will be auctioned and whether they were fresh or among those operational before the Supreme Court order in February 2018 invalidatedmining leases.
“The MEPL has already started exploration of mining leases to deduce the quantum of below-surface mineral deposits. Our auctioning procedure will be completed before December 15. Auction will be carried out through the corporation (Goa Mineral Development Corporation), but we will take SBI on board too,” Sawant added.
Goa government had earlier considered undoing the Supreme Court order through an act of Parliament but the idea was rejected by the Central government. Finally, when the state government’s review appeal was rejected by the top court earlier this year, CM Sawant announced the setting up of a mining corporation to restart mining.