Several public interest groups and persons from mining villages met today in Panaji (5.12.2020) to protest the recent exclusive consultation organized in Delhi on the Goa mining issue between Mr Prahlad Joshi, the Minister for Minerals, the state government and representatives of former leaseholders including Ambar Timblo, P K Mukherjee, representatives of Vedanta, etc.

As persons and organizations keenly interested and involved in Goa’s mining operations and their environmental impacts in our villages, we wish to know on what basis the mining industry — which the Supreme Court found was operating 100% illegally for nearly 5 years (2007-12) — was exclusively invited to participate in a matter concerning the public policies of the state of Goa in the matter of disposal of its natural resources, especially iron ore.

The National Mineral Policy 2019 states clearly “natural resources, including minerals, are a shared inheritance where the state is the trustee on behalf of the people to ensure that future generations receive the benefit of inheritance. State Governments will endeavour to ensure that the full value of the extracted minerals is received by the State.” The mineral ore of the state of Goa does not belong to the central government nor to the state government nor to any of the former leaseholders. Iron ore and other minerals belong exclusively to the people and future generations of the state of Goa. Unless and until all thinking about re-start of mining operations is conducted on this basis, there will be little or no cooperation from the public.

We therefore demand that in all proposals for re-start of mining, all the people and future generations of the state must benefit equally from mining operations as is their right. If this is not accepted or implemented, it would be difficult to sustain the proposal for restart of mining in the state.

We therefore question how former leaseholders only could have been associated with the meeting: such a consultation, favouring a few, is not in harmony with the demand for equal treatment guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

We further remind the central & state governments that all companies and former leaseholders were found to have committed illegal mining for nearly 5 years (2007-12). They have cases against them for illegal mining, for large-scale violations of Rule 37 of the Mineral Concession Rules, for recovery of loot of mineral resources, and for causing gross damage to the environment with their mining activity. None of this damage has been repaired. No mining site has been rehabilitated. If one follows a “fit and proper person test”, not a single one of these leaseholders (especially those who participated in the Delhi meeting) would be entitled to mine not just in Goa but in the rest of the country as well.  In fact, they should all be placed on a black list and banned for further involvement in mining operations in the country.

In the past only the central government and the private leaseholders have benefitted from mining operations in the state.  The state of Goa has earned less than 5% of the value of the mineral sold from the state. Goans have been cheated wholesale.

We are of the view therefore that the problem of mining in Goa is not an issue that should be restricted to discussions only with the (wholly discredited) mining lobby. A large number of persons including persons in the mining affected villages must be consulted. Any person from any part of Goa –being an equal owner of the ore — has the right to a say and to express her concerns and demands.

We fully support the proposal of the Goa Foundation that the only immediate mandatory step for resumption of mining operations is to forthwith set up the Goa Mineral Development Corporation which will handle all the mining affairs of the state.

The Department of Mines and Geology is entirely ill-equipped to deal with the production and sale of mineral ore and to ensure that there is zero loss for the owners of the ore. We insist that all mining leases be kept with the Goa Mineral Development Corporation which will employ only professionals and that only the contracts for extraction of ore — with reasonable profit of 10-15% — be tendered for future mining in the state.  This would enable village level cooperatives and even mining employees who can form associations to take up such contracts.

All ore extracted by any party in Goa under tender must be handed over to the Corporation which will e-auction it internationally to get best price. The Corporation will place all the money received from sales — after extraction costs are paid — in the Goa Iron Ore Permanent Fund. Only the real income from the fund will be available for distribution as a citizen’s dividend, among every individual in the state as all are equal owners. The comunidades of Goa are a good example of such common ownership of natural resources and dividends paid on the basis of their sustainable use.

Any other proposal at the moment is unacceptable to all of us. If the structure of ownership is not real, i.e., it does not lead to direct financial gain for all the citizens of the state of Goa, then it is best that the ore continues to remain in the ground where its value can only keep on increasing.

Proposals have already been made to the Goa government to ensure that all the 850 million tonnes of overburden and mining wastes and rejects which are lying across the state — specifically in mining areas — should be removed and the lands restored to productive use. Exhausted mining pits must be backfilled. This activity alone will ensure gainful employment for equipment and truck owners for a minimum of 10 years and will free up thousands of hectares for productive use. This work can be conducted by the Corporation on top priority.

We insist that all employees who have been retrenched by the mining companies and who have lost their job as a result of the termination/expiry of leases in the state of Goa should be employed by the Corporation forthwith. Without them, mining cannot be carried out in the state of Goa.

The time has come for a complete break with the questionable heritage of mining in the state to ensure that it is done on a different footing and on a clean slate so that future generations are kept in mind, even while the present generation also benefits.

We also demand an invitation to any further meetings at Delhi or Goa which purports to discuss the future of mining in the state of Goa.