As the mining season in Goa winds down to a close ahead of the monsoon, industry players hope to put the protests by locals against illegal ore extraction and truckers’ strikes that hurt their profitability behind them.
Industry players say that this was one of the worst patches, with agitations by locals, court orders, demands for hikes by transporters and an unprecedented rise in the export duty imposed by the Union government marring the season.
Goa exports around 50 million metric tones of iron ore to various international markets, including China, Japan and some European nations.
The State has 90 mines operational, with 15,000 trucks transporting the ore from mining sites to jetties built on the river fronts.
The figures state that 4,000 trucks were added to the fleet this season itself.
Mining operations are shut down once the South-West monsoons hit the costal State in the first week of June.
The ore cannot be extracted and transported in the wet climate.
Goa Mineral Ore Exporters’ Association Secretary Glen Kalavampara said that South Goa district witnessed the maximum agitations during the season.
“It was for the first time that truckers went on strike twice or thrice. This had never happened,” he said.
The transporters’ strike was a result of the High Court directive that banned overloading and subsequent enforcement of the directives by the State transport department.
Faced with penalties imposed by the State authorities, truckers in turn asked for a hike in transportation rates.
The rate per kg/tonne was hiked from Rs 5 to Rs 11.20 after State officials held negotiations between striking truckers and mining firms.
Uprisings by locals, especially tribals, against illegal and uncontrolled mining were a major setback for the industry.
Operations in five mines in the Cauvrem tribal belt were stopped by agitating locals while similar protests were witnessed at Rivona village after a mining truck crushed a local youth to death.
There were two mines in Sattari taluka that had to be closed as they had no consent to operate under the Air and Water Pollution Act.
State Mines and Geology Director Arvind Lolienkar said that exports came down drastically in the last two months, shrinking royalty collections.
As per government statistics, Rs 950 crore royalty was collected during the mining season.
“The figure would have touched Rs 1,000 crore if not for the continued agitation by locals,” a mines department official said.
The industry faced an unexpected jolt from the Union Budget, which increased export duty from 5 per cent to 20 per cent, which ate into their profits.
Mr. Kalavampara said the exporters have already petitioned the Union government for relaxation of the hike for Goan ore, as it is of a low grade.
“The ore exported from Goa is of a low grade. It doesn’t fetch much price,” he said, adding that the central government is expected to lower the duty in the near future.
“Maybe for next season, the duty would be lowered,” Mr. Kalavampara said.
The exporters stated that the issues faced by them would not exist for the forthcoming season as the State government is upgrading infrastructure in the mining belt.
The Goa Budget has allotted Rs 500 crore for infrastructure projects, which according to Chief Minister Digambar Kamat would be raised through funding from mining firms.
Mining activity is considered one of the pillars of Goa’s economy, with the tourism industry and farming on the decline in the State.