Congress demands auction of Goa iron ore mines

The ongoing controversy over the alleged Rs.1.86 lakh crore coal block allocation scam could have lessons for the multi-million dollar iron ore mining industry in Goa.

The Congress, which is battling charges of corruption at the centre in the coalgate scandal over refusing to auction the coal reserves, is now demanding that the 800-odd operational mining leases in the state be auctioned, instead of being merely renewed in favour of the lease.

"Goa's mines should also be auctioned every year. Why should a few families control mining in Goa? Most of the leases which are expiring soon should be now slotted to auction annually," Congress legislator and spokesperson Reginaldo Lourenco demanded Monday.

Lourenco said the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP)-led coalition government was poised to renew the leases for most operational mines for a period of 20 years each and that mere renewal and not an auction of the mining lease could lead to a loss of Rs.2.40 lakh crore in revenue spread over two decades.

"If the leases are renewed without an auction for 20 years by the Manohar Parrikar government, it could be the biggest scam of the century. The mining industry in Goa itself is worth Rs.12,000 crore annually. This sum multiplied over for 20 years amounts to Rs 2.40 lakh crore," Lourenco said.

Lourenco also said that Parrikar, who is also the mines minister, is favouring the few families who have controlled mining in Goa for the last several decades by renewing their lease licences for over 20 years.

"The Supreme Court has ruled that ownership of natural resources like minerals rests with the public and that the government is a mere trustee," Lourenco said.

There are more than 300 mining concessions which were mostly parcelled out to sympathisers of the Portuguese colonial regime, that was ousted in 1961 when India secured liberation of the state from colonial rule.

Out of these 300-plus concessions, there are nearly 82 active mining leases which are being worked by mining firms, whose leases were regularly renewed by successive state governments.

Goa exported over 50 million tonnes of iron ore in the last financial year.

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