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Environment clearance for mining projects in Goa stopped

Panaji, Feb 22 (Calcutta Tube) The central government’s Environment and Forests ministry has imposed a moratorium on environment clearance of mining proposals from Goa, and has also ordered an environment impact assessment on all mining activities carried out in the state so far.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh also conveyed to Chief Minister Digambar Kamat Monday that the moratorium would continue until the state’s mineral policy is finalised and the union Ministry of Environment and Forests is informed in this regard.

‘I also feel that time has come for a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of all mining activities that have taken place and for which permissions have been given over the past few years,’ Ramesh said in his letter to Kamat, adding that such a study should also identify remedial measures.

The ministry has asked the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to conduct the study.

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 was not available for comment on the issue and his media advisor told IANS that the chief minister’s office would respond to queries on the issue soon.

Kamat recently said that 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 for 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 the former chief minister said, accounted for nearly 18 per cent of the total ore exports.

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

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