Goa ore cos' profit twice state budget

Unlawful mining gave the firms super profits, says report by an NGO
Last Updated 23 November 2011, 20:17 IST

In a well-documented report released to the media on Wednesday, the environment NGO points out that 55 million tonnes of iron ore worth Rs 22,612 crore was shipped out of Goa in 2010-11.

But, contrary to theory put out by Goa Mineral Ore Exporters’ Association president Shivanand Salgaocar and Sesa Goa MD P K Mukherjee that fly-by-night operators were solely responsible for illegal mining in Goa, Alvares demonstrates how the bulk of the earnings went to just five or six leading Goa mining companies, among them Sesa Goa, Fomento Resources, Timblo Group Industries, Chowgules and Salgaocars.

Raising contractors like Congress Minister Joaquim Alemao, Goa PCC chief Subhash Shirodkar, Congressman Dinar Tarcar and Imran Khan also profited enormously from the boom.

In 2010-11, Sesa Goa sold 20.4 million tonnes of ore, over a third of the total iron ore exports from Goa. The Vedanta-owned company’s net profit after tax last year -- a hefty Rs 4,222 crore equalled Goa’s annual income (Rs. 4,290 crore).

While the Goa government earned a paltry Rs. 900 crore from mining royalty, mining companies raked in over Rs. 22,612 crore pulling in profits of nearly Rs. 11,000 crore – almost twice the state’s budget  of Rs. 6,000 crore.

But are these earnings clean?

“It is an established fact that illegal mining has been carried out by mining companies and traders and that they are well aware of the limits of production they had to adhere to and of the various sanctions and permissions required in order to legally operate their mines.

However, greed induced them to violate mining and environmental regulations while the government sat by, watched and did nothing,” says Alvares.

Over the last five years, 25 million tonnes of ore was extracted in excess of production limits. There was no environment clearance, nor consent from the Pollution Control Board and no approval from the Indian Bureau of Mines, Goa Foundation’s documents show.

Mining companies that have profited grossly from the illegalities must be held accountable, says Alvares. “The extent of illegal mining in Goa is so vast that there are reasonable apprehensions that significant sections of the mining industry will have to shut down once the report of the Shah commission of enquiry is made public,” he says.

Apology sought

Alvares and environment activist Ramesh Gauns Sesa Goa MD P K Mukherjee owed them an apology for his insinuation that foreign funding was driving activism against the Goa mining sector.  “We do not know if there is any foreign funding behind all the activism against Goan mining. When the country wants to invite huge investment in the mining sector such negative painting of all miners with the same brush may do more harm than good…” Mukherjee had said in an official release.

Alvares and Gauns said it was Mukherjee in fact who worked for a foreign-owned company. “Sesa Goa is owned by Vedanta Resources whose chairman Anil Agarwal lives in London and has no responsibility to Goans or the Goan environment. His company is registered in
London. Mukherjee is taking money out of India and accusing NGOs of causing unrest. Let Sesa Goa pack up and go,” Alvares said. They demanded that the government also act against another foreign company Magnum Minerals owned by Canada-based Terra Nova Royalty Corp which has been mining in Goa in violation of the law.

(Published 23 November 2011, 20:15 IST)

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