Sensible move

The revocation by the green bench of the Supreme Court of the ban on iron ore mining in Goa is a welcome step.

The ban has been in place for the last 18 months as a result of widespread illegal mining which caused large-scale environmental damage and loss of revenues to the state.

The resumption has now been allowed with a number of conditions which are expected to take care of the negative impact of reckless mining activity.

The court’s order puts a cap of 20 million tonnes on annual  production. This is in accordance with the recommendation of a court-appointed panel which had investigated illegal mining in the state.

When  mining was at its peak the state had produced up to 45 million tonnes per year. Another important decision of the court, which will act as a  safeguard, is to scrap the mining licences which have not been renewed since 2007.

No leases for mining will be granted in eco-sensitive areas.

The restarting of mining in Goa will have positive implications for the national economy. The state had accounted for more than half of the country’s iron ore exports before the ban.

Much of the ore from Goa  was not used in India because of quality problems and the distance of the mines from the steel plants. India was once the third largest exporter of iron ore but became a net importer after the ban in Goa, Karnataka and Odisha.

One major reason for the large current account deficit of last year was the stoppage of exports and the import of the commodity.

Resumption of exports will now help to further reduce the deficit. Partial mining was allowed  last year  with an upper limit of 30 million tonnes in Karnataka, where also a ban had been imposed after widespread illegalities were reported.

The issue of mining in Odisha is before the court now.

Resumption of mining will also give a boost to the state’s economy.

It is estimated that Goa had lost about Rs 35,000 crore in revenues between 2000 and 2012 because of illegal mining.

The livelihood problems of about five lakh workers and others who depended on mining will also be addressed.

It is for the government to ensure that the conditions are fulfilled and mining will be completely legal and environmentally sustainable.

There should be no return to the scandalous days of the past.

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