THE Goa government has taken a very deterrent step to prevent loss or injury to human lives in accidents involving mining trucks. A dozen persons were killed in accidents involving ore transporting vehicles since mining resumed. The government has warned leaseholders that in case of accidental death involving a mining vehicle, whether filled with ore or empty, their yearly quota would be reduced by one lakh tonnes. The compensation amount would initially be paid by the leaseholder but the final recovery after adjudication would be made from anyone among those involved in the process including the trader, transport contractor, vehicle owner or driver. The move is aimed at zero tolerance towards accidents and should be welcomed.
The liability provisions presume that the duty of leaseholders towards the society would not be confined to leasehold areas but extend till the ore is transported to the jetty. Henceforth, the leaseholder would have to deposit a sum of Rs 10 lakh with the government in case of an accidental death within two working days of such an accident or Rs 5 lakh in case of serious injuries and a sum of upto Rs 1 lakh in case of simple hurt due to an accident caused during ore transportation. The money would be paid to the victim or the victim’s family as ex-gratia relief irrespective of the fault of either party. The authorities need to ensure that the new decision is implemented in letter and spirit. Most deaths involving mining trucks occur owing to the fact that drivers resort to overspeeding to achieve the targets set to them by their owners and earn incentives in return. While the government has been attempting to prevent accidents by installing GPS and speed governors on mining trucks but it has met with limited success.
The government must work sincerely to streamline operations in the mining sector and push toward efficient and scientific mining. Under no circumstances should illegal exploitation of minerals be allowed. While accidents need to be curbed there should be stress on adopting maximum measures for curbing dust pollution while transporting ore. With a view to motivating mining leaseholders to adopt self-regulatory steps, the government has announced incentives for adherence to the rules and disincentives for resorting to irregularities and illegalities. The fear of rivals reporting illegalities, given the fact that the government has assured to maintain confidentiality of those reporting illegalities by any of the leaseholders, is likely to deter leaseholders from resorting to illegalities and could bring in transparency in the mining operations. The government has warned that illegal activities could lead to leaseholders losing the quantity of ore extraction allotted to them. Illegal mining, which resulted in the number of ore transporting trucks and the frequency of their trips, led to increase in number of accidents. So curbs on illegalities would also reduce the number of accidents.
With the demand for mineral ore extracted in Goa picking up and there being possibility of the Supreme Court enhancing the upper limit of extraction fixed by it from 20 million tonnes to 30 million tonnes, the competition for higher yields among leaseholders will grow. In such a situation the role of directorate of mines and geology and other enforcement authorities in regulating mining operations and transportation would be crucial. As mining was suspended for nearly three years because of illegalities and irregularities the onus on adherence to set norms is both on the leaseholders and state government agencies. Since mining has resumed, there have been no major cases reported about illegalities. The achieving of the maximum limit of ore extraction set by the Supreme Court was also done in a regulated manner. Both the leaseholders and the government need to remember that any attempt to bypass the rules could lead to a repeat of the 2012 situation. The government agencies have a major role to play in implementing the rules and regulations by enforcing probity of its officials concerned with granting of permissions.
Coming back to the question of protecting human life in the mining areas, the new heavy penalty rules must be applied without fear or favour. The driving licences and driving skills of drivers engaged in ore transportation should be thoroughly checked to weed out fake ones. The fitness of the vehicles has to be checked too. The government should make installation of speed governors and GPS on the ore transport vehicles mandatory to monitor their movements. Such steps would help prevent accidents and save lives and also ensure that rules and regulations prevailed in the system of ore extraction and transportation.