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Issue 48
, 2014
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Supreme Court allows resumption of mining in Goa

Source: Down to Earth, Date: , 2014

The suspension of mining activities in Goa has ended with the Supreme Court allowing conditional resumption of iron ore mining in the state on Monday.

The judgement, delivered by the bench of JusticeA K Patnaik, has allowed a maximum annual extraction of 20 million tonnes from the mining leases in the state, after taking into account the principles of sustainable development and inter-generational equity.

All mining activities in the state have been at a standstill since 2012 after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) announcedsuspension of environmental clearances of all 139 mining leases in the state. The latest decision of the Supreme Court comes as a big respite to mining players such as Sesa Sterlite, earlier known as Sesa Goa, the main subsidiary of multinational mining and metals giant, Vedanta. When contacted, the company refused to comment on the developments expected following the judgement.

The Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) has welcomed the decision. Basant Poddar, vice-president of FIMI, emphasised that the decision of lifting mining ban will not only help the mining industry but also the people whose livelihoods have been hit by MoEF's suspension order.

The order comes following the report of the C R Babu committee, that was tabled in the apex court last month. The expert committee set up by the Supreme Court to evaluate the macro-level environmental impact of iron ore excavation in Goa, suggested a cap of 20 million tonnes a year on iron ore mining, subject to an adequate mechanism to regulate and monitor the ecological and environmental impacts of mining activities. The annual cap of 20 million tonnes is to stay until a final and more comprehensive report is submitted by the expert committee. The court is now awaiting the final report which is expected to be completed within one year.

Concerns regarding illegal mining activities in Goa and its ecological impact have been long-standing. The report of Justice M B Shah Commission, which was tabled in Parliament on September 7, 2012,highlighted illegal mining activities in Goa. The commission was appointed on November 22, 2010, to inquire into the illegal mining in Goa and six other states. Just days after the Shah Commission report was submitted in Parliament, MoEF ordered temporary suspension of mining activities in the state. The Supreme Court in October 2012, ordered that the mine leases where violations were detected by the Shah Commission should be suspended and asked its central empowered committee (CEC) to investigate the illegalities.

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