SC panel seeks to cancel 42 mining leases in Goa
‘It has taken a heavy toll on the natural vegetation and wildlife’
The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) appointed by the Supreme Court on Friday recommended revocation of environmental clearances granted to 42 iron and manganese ore mining leases which were operated either within or up to a one kilometre-distance of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Goa.
The panel also called for having a re-look at the clearances granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to 120 other mining leases, located up to 10 km of the national parks and sanctuaries, saying that their cases should be placed before a Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL).
“The mining leases are in areas of forest or natural vegetation and consequentially mining has taken a heavy toll of the Goa’s natural vegetation and wildlife. Acute damage has also been caused to the groundwater aquifers because of indiscriminate mining below groundwater level which in turn have in several areas adversely affected agricultural activities,” the report submitted by CEC s said.
A forest bench of Justices Aftab Alam, K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar directed all parties, including the state, to file their response to the CEC’s recommendations and posted the hearing on a PIL filed by NGO Goa Foundation for January 4.
The court in October banned the mining activities as well as transportation of extracted iron and manganese ores in Goa.
The CEC sought a ban on mining for 19 leases, located within the sanctuaries and another 23 leases located up to a distance of 1 km from the boundaries of national parks or sanctuaries on the ground that their continuation was in violation of the court orders and necessitating revocation of environmental clearances by the MoEF.
“The additional principal chief conservator of forests, Regional Office, MoEF, Southern Region, Bangalore, may be directed to verify, after considering the relevant information and making appropriate enquires as deemed necessary, that (a) the mining operations will not have adverse impact on the flora, fauna or wildlife habitat and (b) the distance of the National Parks / Wildlife Sanctuaries and the status of the forest areas have correctly been stated in the environmental clearances / applications for seeking environmental clearances,” it said.
Among other recommendations, the CEC sought the apex court to direct Goa to constitute a committee under the chairmanship of its chief secretary, with principal secretary, Mines Goa, additional principal chief conservator of forests, Southern Zone, Bangalore, and an officer not below the rank of joint secretary, to be nominated by the secretary, Ministry of Mines, Government of India, as its members to examine significant records of the lease holders and submit its report within three months.
“The State of Goa may be directed to immediately notify comprehensive rules to regulate the storage, transportation and shipment of mineral and which should inter-alia provide for issue of transit permits before the mineral is permitted to be transported outside the lease area, verification in transit and reconciliation of the mineral exported and domestically used quantity of mineral legally produced. Till such comprehensive Rules are put in place, the resumption of mining operations may be not be permitted,” it said.