In a show of strength, thousands of people dependent on the mining industry in Goa today gathered in Panaji demanding that legal mining must not be affected in a quest to stop illegal iron ore extraction in the State.

Around 15 different organisations representing truck owners, machinery owners, contractors and allied industry gathered at Campal ground in Panaji to express fear that the tirade against illegal mining would devastate legal mining trade, which is the State’s second-largest industry .

Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar, who headed Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on illegal mining, said legitimate mining business must not be affected and extended support to the people dependent on it.

“It’s the responsibility of State government to respect opinion of the people. Government is doing everything necessary to ensure that legal mining should not be banned,” State Home Minister Ravi Naik, told the people.

Mr. Naik, who claimed to be representing Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, said the government supports all the demands and Chief Minister will personally look into it.

Protesters blocked Mandovi River channel by anchoring barges (ships used to carry ore). Mining trucks were also brought to Panaji, which were stopped by police on the city outskirts.

After Justice M B Shah, who is heading the inquiry Commission began probe into the illegal iron ore trade in the State, closure of eight mines have been ordered, raising fears of business being affected.

State Forest Minister Philip Nery Rodrigues said Centre’s decision to have a 10 km buffer zone between wildlife sanctuaries and mining sites needs to be reviewed in Goa’s case.

“We have already written to the union government and we are waiting for their response,” Mr. Rodrigues said pointing fingers towards the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).

Mr. Parrikar said that BJP will always stand by legal mining business. “What we don’t want is illegal mining,” he said.

The protesters have set a deadline of October 25 for the government to clarify its position.

“If government does not come out with any assurance then we will be forced to paralyse Panaji city,” All Goa Truck owners association president Nilkant Gawas said.