Growing public outcry over illegalities in leases cited in Commission report

The Goa government on Monday suspended the operation of all existing mining leases with effect from Tuesday. This has been done to scrutinise clearances obtained by the leaseholders and not to allow continuation of operations without verification of requisite approvals in the coming mining season.

The action comes in the wake of the growing public outcry over the illegalities in the mining sector as brought out by the Justice M. B. Shah Commission of Inquiry in its report, which was tabled in Parliament last week.

Goa has nearly 100 leases and of this, 82 are operative. According to the Commission report, 42 leases were renewed by the State government by condoning the delay without the authority to do so.

Earlier in the evening, a Citizens’ Action Group, formed at a public meeting organised by non-governmental organisations and environmental activists, demanded that both the Central and State governments immediately stop passing the buck and forthwith stop allotting new leases. It also demanded that all illegal mining leases, as mentioned in the Commission report, especially those encroaching on forest land, be immediately cancelled and all culprits booked. The Action Group demanded 100 per cent implementation of all the recommendations of the report.

The Commission, constituted by the Centre to look into illegal mining in various States, pointed out blatant illegalities in the mining sector in Goa and estimated the illegal extraction at Rs. 35,000 crore.

According to an order issued by Principal Secretary (Mines) R.K. Verma, the government is examining the Commission report and will take necessary action and file an action-taken report.

The suspension of mining operations, however, shall not affect trade and transportation of the ore mined and existing in the leasehold area, in transit or stored or stocked on the jetties. The leaseholders or traders who have procured such quantities of ore have been asked to report the exact quantum with all details within seven days to the Director of Mines.

The government will set up a verification committee, comprising Mines and Revenue Department officials, to expeditiously scrutinise the documents, papers and approvals, etc., of the leases, so that those who have valid clearances are allowed to begin operations for the rest of the season, the order says.

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