By Nandkumar M Kamat
Tust a few minutes before writing this article, I had to rush out behind my house and join the fire fighters of Goa fire and emergency services to save my garden and residence from incineration, once again, as a five hectare green patch of vegetation in faculty residential colony, Goa University was deliberately put on fire on Sunday afternoon by miscreants.
The huge firefront stopped within metres of touching our garden.
The Chief Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar is also doing a great firefighting exercise over the mining issue. The firefront of indignation created by mining dependant stakeholders has stopped barely from the line of political instability. Perhaps he had not envisaged firefighting over mining issue when he came to power. He needs to now establish a Goa natural resources and commodity intelligence bureau and hire commodity analysts.
Closure of Goa’s mining sector is a cause of global celebrations - the windfall is projected at $ 15 billions per year. The world’s biggest iron ore producers Vale, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are replacing Goan iron ore exports in China, Japan and South Korea and India may also have to import from them. According to a CNBC report- smaller iron ore exporters like Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group would also benefit because they supply the lower-grade ore that competes directly with India in the Chinese market.
A commodity analyst at Macquarie in Shanghai, Mr Graeme Train opines, "It will be a huge bonus for big miners. There’ll also be a premium emerging for lower grade ore and India’s absence will drive Chinese interest into Fortescue-type products."
Seeing is believing and reading a public document from a public person is an objective approach to make an opinion. There are two important but scientifically and technically somewhat disappointing documents which I have studied and analysed to know the mind of the CM and his future plans for Goa’s 66 years old depressed mining sector. He is realistic, cautiously optimistic and despite his personal inclination towards ecofriendly agricultural and dairy sector, as a person in command of the state, seems to believe in legal mining with caps on production and dump utilisation.
The only fault which I find is the blind and scientifically unacceptable assumption of state government that exporters only export Iron or ferromanganese ores with different grades since no geochemical analytical standards are prescribed and valuable metals like Gold, Platinum, Vanadium, Zirconium and many others also land up in foreign harbours as bonus trace elements.
Government’s capping decision is also not supported by micro level, lease or mine specific or dump specific, multielemental ferrous and non ferrous geochemical analysis despite latest global research on Precambrian ore formation and composition. Due to natural leaching of lighter elements, there is substantial extractable Gold in more than 10 years old mining reject dumps than in entire deep Kolar gold fields.
Even today the department of mines and geology does not have a world class geochemical atlas of Goa and is reluctant to admit presence of massive auriferous (gold containing) resources in archaean rocks, laterite, sediments, sands and soils. This is plain arrogance, indifference or criminal stupidity and goes totally against public and national interests.
The first document which I scrutinised was the 68th report of Public accounts committee (PAC) which he had submitted as chairperson to the speaker and the second one is the detail, well structured and bold note sent to centrally empowered committee (CEC) which had visited Goa recently. Both these documents which the government was reluctant to make public were made available in digital format by the website goachronicle.com. They have done a great service to the civil society of India in the interest of transparency and have boosted culture of healthy democratic discourse. With these two documents in hand anyone can see the other side of the environment versus development, legal versus illegal mining and judiciary versus executive debates.
Over a period of more than two years, Mr Parrikar switched his roles from a very effective leader of the opposition to a charismatic CM but in both the documents his remarkable consistency, consolidation and conformation of opinions is visible. His stand on what he considers as sustainable mining is clear but the fixed cap of 25 million metric tonne (MMT) on fresh extraction and 20 MMT from dump handling would not stand the scrutiny of metal commodity market experts and geochemists who would like to see exports tied to favourable international ore prices and realistic trace metal valuation.
The note sent to CEC shows the CM of Goa as an assertive politician. It is a complete ‘paradigm shift’ from the soft governance in the past. The drafting and structure of the note reveals fascinating assertion by a democratically elected state government which is answerable to cumulative negative ecological, economic and social externalities created by an exploitative union government under an outdated and questionable federal resource sharing setup. It is doubtful whether any other CM in India would show such courage to take on a committee appointed by the apex court on substantive issues. The state government should give a wide publicity to this note, generate a healthy debate in civil society, in economic and political forums of the colleges and come out with a white paper on misrule, misdeed and bad governance by central government which took heavy slice of the revenue cake from mining sector since Goa’s liberation and did absolutely nothing for ecorestoration or rehabilitation of mining affected areas. Both the notes leave no doubts that government of Goa may have a different idea of sustainability in legally permissible mining but it is rather dictated by immediate economic and social concerns rather than knowledge of globally acceptable principles of natural resource economics and understanding of the best worldwide precepts, policies and practices in sustainable mining.
The genuine anxiety and apprehension of the state government is also discernible in the note sent to CEC because if the model recommended for Bellary and Hospet is made applicable to Goa with or without modifications, then the state government’s role and say in determining and guiding the future of local iron ore mining sector would get marginalised. (Concluded)