NGO says company allowed to export ore through Panaji, in violation of court directive

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Goa government and exporters on an NGO application seeking a directive to the government not to allow transport of iron or manganese ore within and from the State and to suspend exports of these minerals.

After hearing counsel Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for Goa Foundation, a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Ranjan Gogoi issued the notice and scheduled further hearing for February 15.

The NGO said the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), in its interim report on illegal mining in Goa, had upheld most of the allegations made in the M.B. Shah Commission’s report, which estimated a Rs. 35,000-crore loss to the exchequer from illegal mining in the past 12 years. However, Goa’s Director of Mines and Geology recently issued an order, “ostensibly” on a December 12, 2012 application made by an exporter (M/s. Prime Mineral Exports Pvt. Ltd.), allowing it to transport 72,000 tonnes of ore and export it through the Panaji port. The order reasoned that the ore originated from a Maharashtra mine, so it was not covered by the interim order which the Supreme Court issued on October 5, 2012, halting mining in all 90 mines in the State.

“Prime Mineral Exports Pvt. Ltd. is a company owned by Fomento. Serious queries have been raised about its operations by the CEC in its report, which is awaiting consideration by this court. The ore is allegedly from a mine at Redi in Maharashtra. Redi has its own jetty from where all the ore extracted from mines therein is exported. This [lot of] ore allegedly extracted and owned by Prime Mineral Exports Pvt. Ltd. was stocked at Sirsaim in Goa before the no-objection certificate was issued by the Department of Mines and Geology. The ore could have been… exported from the Redi jetty…” in compliance with the court order, the petition said. Goa Foundation argued that the application was allowed on the basis of the exporter’s statement and not on any records available with the Director of Mines. “There appears to be no verification of the correctness of [the facts made out in] the application.”

It said that if such orders were to be issued, the October 5, 2012 directive would be watered down until it became “meaningless,” and sought a directive to ban such exports.