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Goa may lose Rs. 3,500 crore due to SC order on mining leases

PTI | Panaji |

Goa is staring at a revenue loss of Rs 3,500 crore annually and downscaling of nearly two lakh jobs following a Supreme Court order over non-renewal of iron ore mining leases in the state, a minister has said.

The state government wants that the Centre should help it in dealing with this impending crisis.The SC had last month quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to 88 companies in Goa in 2015. The apex court said it was giving time till March 15 to mining lease holders, who have been granted a second renewal in violation of its previous directions, to manage their affairs.

They are directed to stop all mining operations with effect from March 16, until fresh mining leases (not fresh renewals or other renewals) are granted and fresh environmental clearances are granted, the court said. Goa transport minister Sudin Dhavalikar said there is a concern about the loss of revenue and jobs because of the court order.

“The estimate is that we will lose Rs 3,500 crore annually and also around two lakh people will be rendered jobless, if the mining industry stops forever,” he told PTI. “The Centre has to provide us a way out of this situation and we have faith that it will do it,” said Dhavalikar, whose Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) is an ally of the BJP in Goa.

While the Goa government is busy charting its strategy to minimise the impact of the apex court’s verdict on the state’s economy and the people, the mining industry stakeholders are also concerned about the uncertainty hovering over their means of livelihood. The stakeholders include the truck owners, who transport the ore from mining sites to jetties located along the river side.

Nilkant Gawas, the president of All Goa Truck Owners’ Association, said there should be a clarity on whether mining will be allowed or it will be shut down completely.“We can’t live in this kind of an uncertain situation for long,” he said.

Since 2012, he said, the mining industry has been severely affected and the people depending on it are facing an uncertain future. “Let the people know once and for all whether mining will stop or will be allowed to continue without any hiccups,” Gawas said.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had banned mining in Goa in 2012 after the allegations of illegal mining surfaced.The industry had resumed in 2014, but failed to take off due to various regulations pertaining to the iron ore extraction and its export. Gawas alleged that the greed of mine owners and politicians in power pushed the mining industry to the brink of a crisis. North Goa Truck Owners’ Association secretary Suresh Desai said the solution for the problem has to be worked out before March 15 or else, he feared, there would be a major economic disaster for the people dependent on the industry.

“We want the mining industry to continue and it is for the government and experts to find a solution,” he said. The barge operators, who ferry the ore from jetties to the trans-shippers, (take carry the consignment abroad), are equally worried. All Goa Barge Owners Association’s spokesman Atul Jadhav said the people dependent on the mining industry are hopeful that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar will come up with some solution.

“It is he who has the capability to provide a solution for this problem,” said Jadhav.One of the oldest mine owners in Goa, Haresh Melwani of H L Nathurmal mining company, said the BJP should take up the issue in Parliament and move an amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Regulations and Development) Act so that the industry is not adversely affected by the Supreme Court’s order.