‘Chief minister against new mining leases in Goa’

Panaji, Feb 23 (Calcutta Tube) The Goa chief minister is against allowing new mining leases in the state, his office said here Tuesday.

Speaking to IANS a day after union Minister for Environment and Forests (MoEF) Jairam Ramesh ordered a ‘moratorium on consideration of mining proposals for environmental clearance from Goa’, Suresh Walve, media advisor to Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, credited the moratorium to the chief minister rather than Ramesh.

‘It is because of a letter from the chief minister to the MoEF earlier this month, asking that no new mines be allowed in Goa, that the said moratorium has been ordered,’ Walve said.

‘The chief minister is himself very much against allowing any new mines in Goa,’ he added.

The media adviser however rejected requests from this correspondent for a copy of the official letter from Kamat to Ramesh, seeking a ban on new mining in Goa.

‘I can’t give that to you. You can ask under right to information, but that may take two or three months,’ Walve said.

Along with the moratorium, Ramesh in a communique to the chief minister Monday had also stressed on the need for a comprehensive environment impact assessment on all mining activities over the past few years.

Ramesh’s letter could come as a dampener to the state government, which under Kamat, has been often criticised by the opposition and anti-mining activists for ‘bowing to the excesses’ of the state’s Rs.6,000 crore mining industry.

Kamat recently said the state government was entertaining 246 applications for new mining leases in Goa, in addition to the 100-odd already existing iron and manganese ore mines which dot the state’s hinterland.

Villages in close vicinity of these mining areas have often served as virtual battlegrounds for mining companies and anti-mining activists, with the latter claiming that open cast mining was causing ecological havoc in the region by denuding forests and upsetting the ground water levels due to haphazard drilling for ore.

Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar has repeatedly alleged that Kamat and several of his cabinet colleagues were sheltering illegal mining operations, which, former chief minister Parrikar said, accounted for nearly 18 percent of the total ore exports.

Nearly 33 million tones of ore is extracted and exported annually from the state.

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