Illegal ore extraction sparks fears of mines shutdown in Goa

Illegal ore extraction sparks fears of mines shutdown in Goa

As per a rough estimate, there are at least two lakh people who are dependent on the mining industry.

The mining belt, which runs across seven out of 12 talukas of the state, is heavily dependent on extraction and transportation of ore to earn money.

A total 90-odd leases scattered over these talukas has 20,000 trucks plying between the mining sites and jetties where the ore is dumped into smaller ships which carry it forward to the harbour.

A detailed probe by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has pointed out that almost 50 per cent of mining leases have violated norms, which means the ore extracted from them is 'illegal'.

The worst fear is now being expressed that Justice M B Shah Commission, which is investigating the llegal iron ore scam, will recommend shutting down of these illegal mines, unleashing a crisis on the people in this belt.

"There were only 5,000 trucks a decade back. But now their number has gone up to 20,000," Prasanna Ghodge, promoter of PVG Group, one of the biggest transporters for mining firm Sesa Goa, told PTI.

Ghodge, who has been in this business for the last 20 years, says people are not supporting illegal mining but many of them do not know whether the ore they carry in their trucks are legal or illegal.

"How are we supposed to know it? Its for the government to decide it. The trucks ply on the mines once they start. The truck owner will not know whether the mine has exceeded its permissible limit or not," he said.

"Imagine what will happen to the coastal belt if the government stops tourists from arriving here. The same thing will happen to the rural belt if mining is stopped," Vinayak Gawas, Dharbandora Taluka Truck Owners Association member, said.

Dharbandora, a newly notified taluka, is one of the talukas having maximum density of mining leases.

Admitting that too much of iron ore extraction has spoilt the industry, Govind Sawant, a truck owner and a local politician, said there should be a ban on any further purchase of trucks in the mining belt.

Each truck costs Rs 15 lakh. "These trucks are useless if there is no mining. We can't use them for any other activity," he said.

The people who are dependent on mining industry have now decided to have a street protests in Panaji on Wednesday, October 12, when Shah Commission will arrive in the state.

Sawant said they will be handing over a memorandum to Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and leader of the Opposition Manohar Parrikar seeking their intervention in protecting the legal mining industry

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