Mining dump in the background, red polluted water in the foreground

Goa Govt’s new dump mining policy

The Goa government has issued a new policy for removal of wastes in mining dumps in the state of Goa which include minerals that are below the threshold value of ore as defined by the Indian Bureau of Mines. This decision was approved at a meeting of the cabinet, pursuant to which Dr Pramod Sawant has addressed a press conference on 29.12.2021. According to the press conference, the Goa government will now permit removal of such materials from dumps and this will generate adequate mining work for the next 4-5 years.

The decision, he has  stated, has been taken in view of the amendments to the Mineral Concession Rules 2016, specifically Rule 12 (1) (k). This rule had one proviso which read as follows:

Provided that if on an application made to the State Government in this behalf by the lessee, the State Government, in consultation with Indian Bureau of Mines, is satisfied that having regard to the inferior quality of such mineral, it cannot be used for any of the purposes by reason of which use it can be called a mineral other than minor mineral or that there is no market for such mineral as a mineral other than minor mineral, the State Government may by order permit the lessee to dispose of the mineral in such quantity and in such manner as may be specified therein as a minor mineral.

A second proviso has now been added to Rule 12(1)(k) by the 2.11.2021 amendment which reads as follows:

Provided further that in case of overburden or the waste rock or the mineral below the threshold value, which is generated during the course of mining or beneficiation of the mineral; or any minor mineral extracted along with the mineral for which lease is granted, the State Government in consultation with the Indian Bureau of Mines may, by order permit the lessee to dispose of such material in such quantity and in such manner as may be specified therein, on such payment as may be decided by the State Government.

The first proviso enables transport of materials from dumps if these are not being used as minerals. The second proviso enables transport of materials from dumps if they are to be used as minerals, even if low grade. The Chief Minister claims the new proviso to the MCR Rules enables them to commence the course of action which they have decided in the interest of restarting mining activity in Goa.

It must be seen that the so-called “dump mining” policy has been announced solely with a view to salvaging the reputation of the BJP government which is now approaching the elections to the assembly without having any clue of how mining may restart in the state, more than 3 years after mining was halted by Supreme Court’s orders. (The period will become 4 years on 7.2.2022.)

The new policy is completely unconstitutional. After the Supreme Court judgment in 2014 and confirmed in 2018, 2020 & 2021, there are neither leases nor leaseholders. The dumps are the property of the state of Goa, as trustee for the people and especially future generations. Allowing these dumps to be carted away without auctions, merely for the payment of royalty, would violate Article 14, Right to Equality. As the Supreme Court put it in the Meerut Development Authority case [(2009) 6 SCC 171] “Whenever the Government or the authorities get less than the full value of the asset, the country is being cheated; there is a simple transfer of wealth from the citizens as a whole to whoever gets the assets `at a discount’.

The new policy is completely illegal since the issue of the disposition of the dumps is still pending before the Supreme Court of India. The Advocate General of the state had also advised the Goa government against any removal or working on dumps. In fact, based on this situation, the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay at Goa has already issued interim orders staying transport of dump materials from the lease of Mineira Nacionale Ltda at Cuddegal. However the Pramod Sawant government does not listen to the advice of even its own AG.

Removal of similar materials from other leases is still subject to further court orders. However, as of date, no such movement is taking place as per the statements made before the Hon’ble High Court.

The Chief Minister has also made a statement that no environment clearance is required for dump mining. However, being a Chief Minister of only two years’ standing, he is probably not aware that the Ministry of Mines itself had issued a direct letter to the Goa government in 2012 which explicitly requires environment clearances for the removal of such dumps. A copy of the letter is enclosed.

The Goa Foundation is convinced the new proposal has come from a couple of influential former leaseholders who keep supplying unworkable solutions which the government blindly accepts, and all of which involve looting and transfer of large quantities of mineral ores to a few private persons at the expense of the state exchequer.

In the case of the Mineira permit, the state allowed Mineira and its beneficiary contractors to take away 25 lakh tonnes of mineral ore valued at approximately Rs.230 crores, while surrendering only a paltry sum of Rs.20 crore as royalty.

The Goa Foundation insists that the owners of the ore (Goa’s citizens) or civil society representations should be actively involved in the formulation of any future proposals for mining to restart in the state. Since the ore belongs to the people and future generations of Goa, only those proposals which ensure that the wealth generated by the sale of mineral ores is saved in our Permanent Fund for our children and future generations, and the fund income equitably distributed to all persons of the state by direct transfer, will have a chance of survival.

Dr Claude Alvares
Director/The Goa Foundation