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Supreme Court Lifts Ban on Iron Ore in Goa
Apr 23, 2014

Nearly one-and-a-half years after it banned mining in Goa, the Supreme Court allowed an annual cap of 20 million tonnes of iron ore extraction in the state. In its order, the SC bench limited iron ore extraction at 20 million tonnes a year and cancelled mining leases that had been given extensions after 2007 after completion of 20-year renewal periods.

The Green Bench of justices A.K. Patnaik, S.S. Nijjar and F.M.I. Kalifulla ordered cancellation of all mining leases given extension after 2007 even after completion of the maximum 20 years of renewal period and upheld the state as well as central government's decisions in September 2012 in this regard. It also set out conditions like defining a 1-km buffer zone around National Parks and Sanctuaries as no-mining areas and asked the Union ministry of Environment and Forests to issue a notification within six months demarcating eco-sensitive zones around national parks and sanctuaries.

As an interim measure, the court permitted resumption of iron and other ore mining by those granted fresh leases by the state government in accordance with its policy decision and Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act. Until the final report is submitted by the expert committee, the state government will, in the interests of sustainable development and intergenerational equity, permit a maximum annual excavation of 20 million MT from the mining leases in the state of Goa other than from dumps.

The bench asked Goa pollution control board to strictly monitor the air and water pollution levels in the mining areas and furnish relevant data to the expert committee. The court also asked the state to prepare inventory of the sale of iron ore through e-auction. It asked the monitoring committee to submit its final report on the utilization and appropriation of the sale proceeds of the iron ore within six months and directed iron ore mining lessees to pay 10 per cent of sale price to Goan Iron Ore Permanent Fund.

The state government will within six months frame a comprehensive scheme with regard to the Goan Iron Ore Permanent Fund in consultation with the Central Empowered Committee for sustainable development and intergenerational equity and submit the same to the court.

The decision offers a ray of hope to thousands thrown out of jobs after the court shut down mining in the wake of reports of massive illegal extraction of iron ore though awarding of fresh leases will be time-consuming.

The apex court’s order has implications beyond Goa as the mining sector's woes contributed to the economic slowdown along with low growth in manufacturing. Mining has been affected in Karnataka and Odisha as well. During April 2012-January 2013, India's iron ore exports fell about 68.27 per cent to 16.35 million tons year-on-year. In April-September 2013, the mining sector contracted 1.6 per cent. It has been negative in the two previous fiscals.


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