Goa pollution board cracks down on iron ore illegal mining

Panaji, October 3, 2010 (Calcutta Tube) The fate of 51 open cast iron ore mines now hangs in balance as they carried on mining without proper clearances from the state pollution control board. The board will decide soon whether the mining operations at these sites will be allowed to continue.

The state’s top pollution authority also said that mine owners in Goa took pollution clearances for granted.

The Goa State Pollution Control Board had issued show cause notices to 51 mining operations, which were illegally functioning without pollution-related clearances.

Speaking to IANS, Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) chairman Simon de Souza said the documents submitted by the respective mine operators in response to the show cause notices were being scrutinised.

‘We are processing the documents which the mine operators submitted. They have all been heard and a decision will be taken shortly,’ de Souza said.

‘Of the 104 mines operational in the state, only 42 had consent to operate under the Water and Air Act. The consent of 62 mining operations had expired,’ he said, adding that of the 62, six were subsequently granted permission as their renewal applications were in order.

Four other cases were sub-judice and one was denied consent, De Souza said.

De Souza also expressed concerns about the unwritten norm in Goa, where mines blatantly operate despite expiry of tenure, under the assumption that they can continue extraction after putting in a simple application for renewal.

‘The consent to operate under the Air and Water Act needs to be renewed every 2-3 years. However, these mine owners took it for granted that their permissions would be renewed even while their applications are still pending before the GSPCB,’ De Souza said.

Illegal and unchecked mining is a sensitive issue in Goa with both civil society groups and the opposition repeatedly voicing their concerns about the issue.

According to data submitted in the monsoon session of the Goa legislative assembly, ore worth Rs.4,000 crore was illegally mined and exported to countries like China, Japan, and Romania.

Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar claims that nearly 18 percent of Goa’s total 40 million mining output comprised of illegally mined ore. He has also accused Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and several of his cabinet ministers of being in hand-in-glove with the illegal mining industry.

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