The Supreme Court Thursday reserved its order on a plea by a mining company seeking its nod to commercially use and transport the already mined iron ore lying unused in its mines in Goa.
The top court, in 2018, had quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to as many as 88 companies in Goa in 2015 and it had then directed the Centre and the Goa government to grant fresh environmental clearances to them.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant reserved its order after hearing arguments from senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Chowgule and Company Private Limited, and lawyer Prashant Bhushan who has been representing NGO ‘Goa Foundation’.
The mining company is aggrieved by an order of the Bombay High Court and has been seeking the nod of the apex court that after the ban on the iron ore mining in the state, the firm be allowed to commercially use and transport the mined iron ore in Goa.
The plea has been vehemently opposed by the NGO which alleged that the apex court in 2014 had held that the mining leases of various companies were illegal after 2007.
“The mined iron ore is illegal and is a state property which needed to be confiscated,” Bhushan argued, adding that later in 2018, a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur also quashed the renewal of mining leases of more than 80 companies.
Rohatgi, appearing for the firm, said the company was empowered to conduct its mining business for a period of six months even after the closure of mining at the direction of the apex court.
He said the mining firm be allowed to commercially use the already mined iron ore.
The top court, in 2018, had however said that mining lease holders, who have been granted a second renewal in violation of its previous decision and directions, are granted time to manage their affairs and may continue mining operations till March 15 that year.
“However, they are directed to stop all mining operations with effect from March 16, 2018 until fresh mining leases (not fresh renewals or other renewals) are granted and fresh environmental clearances are granted,” the bench had said.
The judgment had then come on a petition filed by Goa Foundation, which had earlier also raised the issue of companies carrying out mining in violation of various statutes.
SC reserves verdict on Goa’s mined iron ore