The just released mining policy draft has circumvented the spirit and letter of Justice M B Shah Commission of Enquiry For Illegal Mining of Iron Ore and Manganese on illegal mining report on both, dumps and capping of extraction of ore
BY GLENN COSTA | NT
PANAJI: The just released mining policy draft has circumvented the spirit and letter of Justice M B Shah Commission of Enquiry For Illegal Mining of Iron Ore and Manganese on illegal mining report on both, dumps and capping of extraction of ore, going soft on both and leaving ample scope for ambiguity.
Though the draft policy has addressed a large number of issues and on the face of it sought to plug loopholes in the sieve that was mining supervision in the state for the remembered past, on these two issues, it lacks any coherence or logic and is at variance with the report recommendations.
The Shah Commission report has clearly pointed out that one of the main ways illegal mining was carried out was mining outside lease areas. Also according to already framed, notified rules, ore cannot be piled up outside lease areas without adherence to mining plan and environment clearance.
But the policy overlooks this aspect, with officials saying that these are run-offs and part of initial extraction, while admitting that there is no proper data on where they are located or from which mine they are or the legality of the ore.
"Dumps are a reality. And how to regulate them is the issue," says the mining director, Mr Prassana Acharya, defending the policy. "One of the objectives is to clean up the dumps. These dumps are affecting water sources, blocking fertile agricultural land," though officials admit that most of the dumps are outside lease areas (most of the Goan dumps are outside the forest areas, lying in lease areas, revenue lands or in private lands - mining policy says). The director admits to the state of data, saying: "First an assessment of dumps in qualitative and quantitative terms has to be made." However, the review of the past blatant illegalities and environmental and ecological degradation is not a part of the policy - at least on the face of it.
The Shah report clearly states: "Mining without lease or mining outside the lease area is continuing unabated. Therefore, more and more inspections of the mines are necessary. Not only inspection but the record thereof is also required to be maintained with a specific note that mining operation is in the lease area. If it is found that mining operation is beyond the lease area, immediate action should be taken. For this, the commission suggests amendments in law to control illegal mining beyond lease area and stresses on penalisation for illegalities, and not condoning past sins."
Mr Ramesh Gawas, a social activist working in mining areas, feels that the state’s mining policy "is not serious about ecology and environment. Most leaseholders have already removed stabilised dumps when prices were high. Most dumps are outside lease areas. Environment clearance is granted within lease areas."
On capping, the mining policy says: "Goa shall impose an ad-hoc limit of a total of 45 million tonnes of ore transportation on public roads including dumps subject to local limits based on transport carrying capacity of the roads. This limit will be reviewed periodically as and when dedicated mining transport corridor is made available or carrying capacity of the road is enhanced. …Additional capacity created through use of navigational channels without use of public roads shall be in addition to above capping."
The policy seeks to cap ore exports not depending on any scientific study or a review of the environmental or ecological degradation (from a planning point of view) but from the view on the carrying capacity of roads. So when mining gets rail heads (on the anvil) or dedicated mining corridors (should be completed within six months - land acquired in most places) to transport ore, the exports can be increased.
While Justice M B Shah argues: "… the State should not bend its policies and permit export so as to drain out national wealth and permit activities which adversely affect forest area, environment and encourage exploitation of labourers, even of minors by various methods. Such illegalities would continue because: there is inadequate staff: no desire to follow the rules and regulations by the lessees: no will to implement the rules and regulations by the concerned offices and finally, power to take deterrent action is not with one body. In the result, for the time being, till procedure as stated above is streamlined and illegal activities are controlled, export of iron ore and manganese may be banned."
Justice Shah adds: "This can be reviewed, relaxed and/or liberalised once effective enforcement agency is in place to see that no illegal mining of these items takes place and also after reasonable estimate of reserves available and demand of industries for production of steel and steel products in this country is assessed.…Further on, the assumption that export of iron ore benefits the country because thereby the country can import steel products from China is a myth and an argument by overlooking the fact that industries in the country, if encouraged, can produce steel and steel products easily."
"One view is we are having sufficient reserves of iron ore which can meet the demand of the industries in India as well as of the export. However, resources fully explored as they stand are likely to last, at the most 57 years as per the report of Mr Jairam (Jairam Report) quoted hereinabove. This also is dependent upon systematic planned exploration," the report argues adding, "He (Mr Jairam) has also observed that the life indices of the high grade lumpy ore (hematite) as on 1.4.2010 will be ten years and requires immediate attention." "In any case, the estimate depends upon resources and probable availability of iron ore from various fields."