Claud Alvares is Director of Goa Foundation, the NGO whose public interest litigation in the Supreme Court has brought to a grinding halt the entire mining in the State since October 2012. He spoke to The Hindu. Excerpts:
Why did Goa Foundation approach the Supreme Court?
Nothing had changed from the time [chief minister] Manohar Parrikar had taken over for almost six months, on the ground on the mining front. We found several mining companies engaged in mining till July 31. This had never happened. The mining companies knew that Shah Commission report had been submitted. Once it was tabled, they would have to close down. Mining industry had a neat plan in place. Extract as much as possible, keep it stacked aside and continue transporting and exporting even if ban comes. Generally in Goa mining closes by May 15 as mines go in for monsoon protection measures. His suspension order of September in the aftermath of Shah Commission report was “mischievous”. It did not ban transportation. Aim was very clear. To enable ‘mining’ in another form. He could claim he closed down the mining and allow it in the form of lifting the stacked ore without solving any of the problems raised by the Commission report. The biggest concerns raised by Shah Commission report was about excess mining having taken place. There were over 468 traders who were exporting ore with no regulation or control mechanism to tally and reconcile ore extracted and ore exported, which had huge disparity.
Added to this was Parrikar government’s proposed State Mining Policy which was about to allow lifting of dumps without separate EC clearances. Mind you, actual dumps are low quality ore. Nobody wants it. Create excess ore on the ground in connivance with the customers, export excess extracted ore in the name of dumps. Try and understand that the difference between actual ore and the dump is $40 and $4. Are miners foolish to spend huge amount on diesels and other things to actually export dumps? Therefore, we realized that it was a part of the bigger plan to continue all the illegalities and irregularities. That is why we found it important to approach the Supreme Court.
Are you satisfied with the present status?
With the kind of greed, mindless and reckless mining going on, if we had not stopped it with the Supreme Court intervention, I am sure, the whole mining would have collapsed under its own weight in two years. With my petition, there is a chance of mining being restarted in the State with regulation and control. The big problem is the way the Chief Minister is behaving on this issue. Still the situation does not seem to be conducive for restarting the mining. The same Mr. Parrikar, who as a leader of opposition came out with a report of Public Accounts Committee which made big allegations of illegal extraction, unsubstantiated exports figures and degradation of environment and plunder and leakage of State royalty, turned to be the biggest votary of the mining after he took over! You cannot turn away from the reality. What we fought for several years in courts has been conceded in Shah Commission report first and then in the interim report of the CEC.
Mr. Parrikar is assuring people that the government will do everything possible including approaching the apex court with an affidavit to convince it about need to restart legal mining with a strong regulatory mechanism. What is your comment?
I am not at all convinced of his intentions. We filed the PIL in September. First interim order of ban by the Court came on October 5. Second order of the Court taking the report of CEC on record came on December 7. How long will his government just say that it will file affidavit in Supreme Court? Why are you trying to convince people of Goa about restarting mining? Go and file your affidavit. If Court believes you, well, we have no issues.