Calling the Goa government’s announcement earlier this week to suspend mining operations “an eyewash and attempt to fool the people,” Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Wednesday said her Ministry had suspended the Environment Clearances (EC) to the 93 mining leases in the State.

Addressing presspersons in the presence of local Congress leaders here, Ms. Natarajan said the MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) had issued show-cause notice to 50 mining-dump-owners in the State, asking them why they should not be stopped from lifting dumps that do not have environmental clearances and as such were illegal.

The Minister denied that the Centre was locking horns with the Goa government and instead accused the Chief Minister of trying to fool the State people.

Reacting to the Justice Shah Commission report on illegal mining, Ms. Natarajan said action would be taken after she examined it.

“If anybody is found guilty, rest assured, strong action will be taken, and the guilty will be punished according to law,” Ms. Natarajan said while asserting that even officials of her Ministry would would not be spared.

Ms. Natarajan said Mr. Parrikar’s order to temporarily close down all mines was merely administrative as no mention was made of under which law it would become operative.

Ms. Natarajan said that if the mining dumps were illegal then the Goa government should confiscate it and auction the same for the benefit of the State people.

She asserted that the 93 mines whose leases were suspended would be allowed to restart operations only if the Ministry was convinced they had not obtained ECs on submitting false information.

A special committee would be set up by the MoEF to look into this matter, she said.

The UPA government was committed to transparency and accountability and anyone found to be indulging in illegal action would be punished under the law of the land.

‘Political witch-hunting’

The Union Minister was visibly agitated over the Chief Minister’s public statements about FIRs to be filed against the former Chief Minister, Digambar Kamat, and others, and described it as “political vendetta” and “witch-hunting”.

“The Chief Minister of Goa has done an utterly meaningless thing by suspending mining leases. I will now do meaningful action, suspend the ECs, study them and only after they [mine owners] satisfy the MoEF, [will we] allow them to continue their operations,” Ms. Natarajan said.

To a question, she said that although Mr. Parrikar had written to her about the Additional Solicitor General of India’s view that dumps could be lifted without ECs being obtained, the Chief Minister had not submitted a copy of the opinion and had mentioned that the State “is yet to form its opinion on it”.