Day before SC-ordered mining ban, Goa mulls review petition

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Panaji, March 14 (IANS) As iron ore extraction and transportation from Goa’s 88 mining sites is due to come to a temporary halt on Thursday following a Supreme Court order, the state’s Cabinet Advisory Committee on Wednesday recommended filing of a review petition to seek continuation of the mining until the leases are auctioned.

Speaking to IANS on Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai, one of the three Ministers on the committee, said the panel had recommended the line of action to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is undergoing treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer in the United States.

“The Chief Minister will take a final decision soon,” Sardesai said.

Sardesai also said that the committee had recommended that the state government should approach the Attorney General of India to file the review petition in the Supreme Court as soon as possible.

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In its order last month, the apex court had ordered a stop on mining in 88 sites leased in Goa from March 15 and directed the state government to issue fresh leases, after completing necessary environment-related formalities.

An amendment to the Mines and Minerals Regulation and Development Act of 2016 had made auctioning of natural resources mandatory.

The apex court decision triggered a rift in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition in Goa, with several legislators, including BJP MLA from Curchorem Nilesh Cabral, accusing both the state and central governments of “betraying” the interests of those dependent on mining industry in Goa, by not working quickly enough to prevent iron ore extraction from shutdown on March 15.

Urban Development Minister Francis D’Souza, another member of the committee, said that auctioning of mining leases in Goa was the only option, but added that companies currently engaged in ore extraction should be allowed to continue till the auctioning is done.

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“Stopping mining would cause loss to the state exchequer as well as to the workforce linked to the mining industry, he claimed.

D’Souza said that MLAs from constituencies in the mining belt would be heading soon-to-be-formed committees to be tasked with assessing losses caused to individuals and companies linked to mining trade.

“The MLAs heading these committee will be assessing the loss. And welfare schemes started by the Goa government, when mining was first banned in 2012, will be extended to ensure that there is no panic,” D’Souza said.

The schemes involved financial doles to owners of truck used to ferry iron ore.

On Tuesday, three MPs from Goa, including Union Minister of State for AYUSH Shripad Naik, met BJP President Amit Shah and Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari (Shipping) and Narendra Singh (Mines) to urge for a solution to the mining imbroglio, which the Goan lawmakers claim will impact the livelihood of over one lakh people.

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