Goa mining leases will require fresh ECs: High court nixes state’s exemption

PANAJI: The Bombay High Court at Goa on Wednesday ruled that successful bidders for Goa’s iron ore mining blocks will have to obtain fresh environmental clearances (ECs) and that the state government’s assurances that the mining blocks can revive the old environmental clearances will not stand.

The high court ruled that winning bidders of freshly auctioned mining blocks will have to get fresh environment clearances (EC) before resuming mining operations (HiT FILE PHOTO)

“If the state government’s interpretation is to be accepted, then the ECs issued in 2007, based upon which the mining industry in the State of Goa virtually caused havoc by rapacious and rampant exploitation regardless of any concern for environment, health and well-being of the citizens, would have to be revived and transferred to the new lessees/successful bidders” and that the “impact of rapacious and rampant exploitation, including several severe environmental violations by the mining industry between 2007 and 2012, would have to be ignored,” a bench of justices MS Sonak and Valmiki Sa Menezes said.

A mining company, Sociedade de Fomento Industrial Limitada, petitioned the high court, pointing to the state government’s notice inviting tender, which said the successful bidder for the Cudnem Cormolem Mineral Block would not require a fresh environmental clearance since valid approvals, rights, clearances and licences would be transferred and vested in the new lessee.

“New lessees could operate mining leases based on valid approvals, rights, clearances, and licences granted to former lessees,” the state government told the high court.

It was argued by Goa Foundation, which intervened in the case, that the Mines and Minerals Development Act’s section 8B applies only to the valid ECs of mining leases whose terms may have expired but not to ECs expressly cancelled by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) based on the judicial orders.

In the case of Goa, successive judgements of the Supreme Court in 2014 and 2018 underlined that no mining in Goa could restart “until fresh mining leases (not fresh renewals or other renewals) are granted and fresh environmental clearances are granted.”

“The Supreme Court, in clear and unambiguous terms, held that fresh ECs were a must for mining leases in the State of Goa affected by the decision in GF-I and GF-II. This reiteration was based not only upon the explicit direction in GF-I but also material in the form of the Justice Shah Commission report, report of EAC, and report of the expert committee constituted by the Court. This direction was also based upon the Hon’ble Supreme Court taking a broad view that large-scale mining of iron ore led to several adverse impacts, including those related to the environment, ecology and health of the people of Goa and that almost all committed these illegalities and irregularities (if not all) mining lease holders as reported by the EAC”.

As part of the ongoing auction of mining leases in Goa, the state has put up five mining blocks — Advalpal-Tivim, Cudnem-Cormolem, Cudnem, Tivim-Pirna, and Surla-Sonshi — in the second round of auctions. The first round of four blocks was completed in December.



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