The Opposition in Goa on Wednesday demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, holding him entirely responsible for the cancellation of 88 renewed mining leases in the State by the Supreme Court.
“If the court has come down heavily on those engaged in mining, the culprits are those who failed to interpret the law to protect the mining industry. Here, it is the present Mines Minister who is solely responsible,” Goa Pradesh Congress president Shantaram Naik told presspersons here.
The leases were renewed by the State government in 2015 just before the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act mandated the auction of mining leases. Now all the mining activity in the State, involving iron ore extraction, will come to a halt by March 15.
This is bound to be a big blow to the BJP-led State government as it was hoping that the mining activity would start once again smoothly. The sector has not fully recovered since the complete ban it faced in October 2012 over illegal mining. On October 5, 2012, the Supreme Court had banned entire mining and ore exports in the tiny State, which was partially lifted in April, 2014. But poor international ore pricing and issues related to environmental clearance have not allowed the mining to reach the annual cap of 20 million tonnes of production, prescribed by the Supreme Court in April 2014.
In 2015, the then BJP-led coalition government under Manohar Parrikar had renewed for the second time licences of these mining firms for 20 years with retrospective effect from 2007. The Supreme Court has termed this renewal of mining leases “hasty and illegal” in its judgement on a petition filed by NGO, Goa Foundation, that challenged the renewal of leases by the government. It all began with the then Congress CM of Goa, Digambar Kamat, being indicted by the M.B. Shah Judicial Commission for allowing illegal mining, resulting in amassing of wealth by individuals and firms at the cost of the environment.