Panaji Port was illegal mineral export gateway: Official

P. Mara Pandiyan, chairman of the Mormugao Port Trust, Goa's only major port, has written this in a Sep 15 letter - a copy of which is with IANS - to the state Chief Secretary Sanjiv Srivastava.

Pandiyan's letter clearly holds the state government responsible for allowing five million tonnes of illegally extracted ore to be exported out of Goa. 

"As far as the Panaji Port is concerned, the whole operation is falling within the administrative ambit of the state government from the point of licensing mines, movement of iron ore by trucks to the loading point, loading of iron ore into the barges, movement of barges through the rivers and thereafter loading into the ship," Pandiyan, an Indian Administrative Service official said.

"It is estimated about five million tonnes have been exported through the Panaji Port as unaccounted iron ore," Pandiyan stated. 

Urging the chief secretary to suspend the operations of the Panaji minor port in "national interest", Pandiyan said the port did not have any surveillance mechanism to monitor the quantity of ore exported.

The movement of ships has to be monitored by Vessel Traffic Management System, a sea surveillance method, but "Panaji Port does not have this surveillance system", Pandiyan said.

"The barges carrying unaccounted illegal ore have access to the ships at Panaji Port.  Some of the exporters seem to have taken advantage of the lack of bare minimum facilities at Panaji Port," the letter further states.

"Mormugao Port Trust has been examining the operational requirement of Panaji Port for quite some time.  Panaji Port exists only for namesake on record. It does not have any berth. It operates as an 'outer anchorage port' wherein any exporter can load anything to the ship, and does not follow the security norms," he added.

Goa's illegal mining scam has been pegged at Rs.10,000 crore by ruling Congress legislator Dayanand Narvekar during his deposition to the Justice M.B. Shah commission appointed by the Supreme Court to probe illegal iron and manganese ore in the country.
 
Goa extracted nearly 54 million tonnes during the last financial year according to official data. The opposition claims 20 percent of the exported ore was illegally extracted.

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