Minister questions Mines department's description of excess production as handling of dumps

Leader of the Opposition and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Manohar Parrikar on Thursday expressed shock over what he described as a “blatantly false” affidavit filed in the High Court by the Goa Mines and Geology Department early this week claiming that Goan mines in general had not exceeded production norms prescribed in the Environmental Clearances (EC).

The department's affidavit, challenging a public interest litigation petition on excess extraction, inter alia stated that except for a case of extraction amounting to 6000 tonnes in one instance, there were no instances of mines exceeding EC limits for production.

Mr. Parrikar, whose controversial Public Accounts Committee draft report on illegal mining failed to make it to the Assembly, at a press conference gave several instances wherein EC limits were exceeded by showing new production as handling of old dumps at the mine sites.

He questioned the Mines Department's authority to describe the excess production as handling of dumps, which were done without any environmental clearance.

Mr. Parikkar said the 12/53 lease owned by Vaikunth Kadnekar in Mina Quepem taluk of south Goa was revalidated in 2006 by condoning the delay. For, Vaikunth Kanekar and the mine extracted 2.44 lakh tonnes in 2010-11 above EC limits and showed the same as handling of dumps.

“When the case in question was a mine not operated since 1987 till 2007, where does the question of handling of dumps arise?” asked Mr. Parrikar.

Another instance was a mine in Caurvem village in Sanguem taluk of south Goa being revalidated on October 18, 2007 and operated through a power of attorney by a contractor, Dinar Tarcar. Mr. Parrikar said production amounting to 3.90 lakh tonnes in 2009-10 and 3.60 lakh tonnes in 2010-11 was shown as handling of dumps.

If the department believes that there was no case of excess mining in this lease then why did it suspend the operations of the mine on September 28, 2011 based on a complaint received about excessive extraction, he asked.

Mr. Parrikar said irregular operations like these were many and his party submitted a detailed complaint to the Central Bureau of Investigation and Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi last week demanding action.

However, to his surprise, Mr. Parrikar said he was told that the Goa government had scrupulously kept the State Mining Department under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, out of the jurisdiction of the CBI.

Stating that the BJP had decided to release its own report on illegal mining next week, Mr. Parrikar said the party would submit the names of those involved in illegal mining to the CBI.

He also said that during senior national BJP leader L.K. Advani's ‘Jan Chetna Yatra' to Goa, scheduled for November 1 and 2, the illegal mining issue would be highlighted.

Meanwhile, Claude Alvares of the Goa Foundation told The Hindu that the State Department of Mines is not an authority to approve any activity at the mines and as such its contention that there was only dump handling and no excess extraction beyond EC limits has no locus standi.

“It is the Indian Bureau of Mines which has to approve all the mining plans at any mining lease and no mining plans have been approved showing mining dumps which could be handled subsequently. Therefore, handling of dumps cannot be called legal production activity cleared by the Bureau of Mines,” said Mr. Alvares.

Moreover, he said the department seems to be in a habit of producing different figures to different agencies at different times.

“Documents collected by us from the replies given in the State Assembly by Chief Minister Digambar Kamat as Minister for Mines pertaining to figures of production and exports in the year 2009-10 were different than those given in 2011 [recent session]. The figures given by the Department to Pollution Control Board are still different,” said Mr. Alvares.

The affidavit in question was filed in the High Court this week by the Mines Director Arvind Loliekar in the matter of the PIL petition filed by the Goa Foundation.

Mr. Alvares said that they had raised this issue with the Shah Commission of Inquiry for further probe.

RELATED NEWS

Shah Commission re-inspects mines in GoaOctober 19, 2011

More In: National | News | States