SC revokes Goa mining ban but caps extraction of iron ore

New Delhi, April 21: The Supreme Court Monday revoked its ban on iron ore mining in Goa but restricted the ore extraction to 20 million tonnes per annum and prohibited mining within one km of national parks and sanctuaries.

Withdrawing the 19-month-old ban, the bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik, Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla laid down 11 directions that said the mining leases that expired Nov 22, 2007, but were continuing to operate as deemed leases were illegal.

The court upheld the Goa government order of Sep 10, 2012, and the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) order of Sep 14, 2012, terminating the leases.

Cancelling the mining leases, the court said: “It is for the state government to decide as a matter of policy in what manner mining leases are to be granted in future.”

“The state government may grant mining leases of iron ore and other ores in Goa in accordance with its policy decision,” and in accordance with the rules made in consonance with the constitutional provisions, the court ruled.

It said the “constitutionality or legality of the decision of the state government can be examined by the court in exercise of its power of judicial review”.

“Until the final report is submitted by the expert committee, the state government will, in the interests of sustainable development and inter-generational equity, permit a maximum annual excavation of 20 million tonnes from the mining leases in Goa other than from dumps,” the court said in its verdict.

Leaving the future course of granting mining leases to the Goa government, Justice Patnaik said: “There can be no mining activities within one km from the boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries.”

The court also clarified that in its order of Dec 4, 2006, it had not prohibited mining activities within 10 km from the boundaries of the national parks or wildlife sanctuaries.

“The MoEF will issue the notification of eco-sensitive zones around national parks and sanctuaries of Goa after following the procedure discussed in this judgment within a period of six months from today,” the court said.

It said the mining lessees of iron ore will have to pay 10 percent of the sale price of the ore sold by them to the “Goan Iron Ore Permanent Fund”.

The court also directed the Goa government to “frame a comprehensive scheme” with regard to fund for sustainable development and intergenerational equity, and submit its report to the court within six months.

Directing the Goa government to initiate action against those who mined in violation of rules, the court said the government will strictly enforce the Goa (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Storage and Transportation of Minerals) Rules, 2013.

The court also ordered 50 percent of the wages and dearness allowance to workers who have not been paid during the period of suspension of mining operations.

IANS