Mining must be restarted with regulatory apparatus in place
A new ray of hope is visible with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s statement that the suggestion made by the state government for an amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987, was under active consideration of the central government. If approved and notified, the amendment will help resumption of the mining operations and bring back the jobs lost in the sector, besides giving a fillip to the several satellite sectors of the state’s economy that have been on a downward slide since mining came to a halt. The matter relating to resumption of mining has been lingering in the Supreme Court for a long time. Both the BJP and other political parties have been unanimous on the need for the amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act. An all-party delegation met the concerned ministers at the Centre. A delegation of the Goa Mining People’s Front also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, it has gone on for a few years without the central government taking the step for the amendment. From Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s statement it appears the central government has at last shown an inclination to consider the state’s suggestion for amendment.
Mining, which was the mainstay of the state economy for decades, came to a halt after the state government led by Manohar Parrikar suspended it in September 2012 to root out alleged illegalities. The then United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre withdrew environment clearances granted to mine leaseholders bringing the industry to a halt. Though there was some respite after the Supreme Court allowed partial resumption of the industry with several riders, mining failed to regain its old scale and was shut down again on the orders of the Supreme Court because of the faulty procedure followed in renewal of the mining leases. Since then the state government has been making promises to get mining restarted, but they have remained mere promises. People directly and indirectly employed by the mining sector have been agitating for resumption, but without success.
The Chief Minister’s statement has rekindled hope among the mining companies, the other sectors and the thousands of families affected by the mining closure. It is the contention of the state government that the apex court judgment on the petition filed by a non-government organisation was discriminatory as while the other states in the country were allowed two renewals of mining leases, Goa was allowed only a single renewal. It is on the basis of this order that the state has sought to bring up the discrimination done against it to the notice of the central authorities and seek amendment to the law, even as the fight to get justice continued in the top court of the country. Let us hope that the central authorities that have now “accepted” the state’s request and directed concerned officials to move ahead in drafting the changes take the issue to a logical end before more damage is done to the state’s economy.
Now that the promise has been made that necessary changes to the law will be made to help the state restart the mining sector, let us hope the state government closely follows the progress of what the central government is doing on the framing of the amendment. While making changes, the central and state governments should ensure that they were comprehensive in order to prevent any further litigation and delay in resumption of mining activities. The state authorities expect that the changes could come in next three to four months and the mining activities will resume soon thereafter. It is for the central and state governments to guarantee that mining was carried out within the ambit of law leaving no scope for anyone to manipulate the laws to their advantages. The state government must set up a strong regulatory and supervisory apparatus to keep checking the adherence to the rules on a regular basis at the mines so as to prevent repetition of the past wrongdoings. The state government has to also establish a strong mechanism to prevent or act against any violation of the environment laws and regulations.