Arvind Loliekar faces action for failing to act against illegal mining

The Goa government on Monday suspended Arvind Loliekar, Director, Mines and Geology, pending inquiry over alleged failure to take effective action against illegal mining.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who holds the Mining portfolio, said on Monday that the government would decide the manner of inquiry. Simultaneously, the government revoked the extension given to Hectare Fernandes, Senior Assistant Technical Officer of the department.

South Goa Additional Collector Prasanna Acharya has been asked to take additional charge of the Department.

The Department of Mines and Geology called a meeting of officials and representatives of mining companies and it had been decided to streamline and regulate the transportation of iron ore across the State. The issue of transportation of ore, legal as well as illegal, the manner of transportation leading to inconvenience to the public in the mining areas, had been a subject of big public protests and agitations for quite some time.

The department decided to immediately issue show-cause notices to 433 iron ore traders in view of the various irregularities noticed in the operations of a large number of traders and the faulty process of licensing involved. When the new licences are to be issued, the department would make disclosure of their tie-up with ore extracting mining company mandatory as in many of the cases the traders failed to reveal the source of ore exported by them. As many as 110 traders were known to have produced fake addresses as per an investigation conducted by the Mining Department at the instance of the Justice Shah Commission of Inquiry, officials said.

The department had been unable to satisfactorily reply to several issues raised by Mr. Parrikar during his tenure as State legislature's Public Account Committee chairman in the investigation into illegal mining over the years.

Mr. Loliekar took over as Director of Mines and Geology during the tenure of the erstwhile Digambar Kamat government which came under a cloud, for allowing illegal ore extraction and illegal exports.

The latest case of illegal mining in Morlem in north Goa where 17 people were arrested proved to be the last nail in the coffin of Mr. Loliekar, sources told The Hindu on Monday. They said investigations by the police had pointed to the alleged complicity of the Department of Mines and Geology in the case.

Sources said the official under suspension and his colleagues, in all probability, would have to account for less royalty, no information of antecedents of traders, un-reconciled differences in records of ore mined and exported and so on.

The Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the recent Assembly polls by making “illegal mining scams” as one of the election issues. Mr. Parrikar had been in the forefront attacking the previous government for complicity in illegal mining and had promised to act against it after coming to power.

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