Roots of mining in Goa
Sebastian Rodrigues, October 2011
Mining in Goa got started during Portuguese colonial times. The first mining lease was granted by Portuguese in 1929. Portuguese ruled Goa from 1510 to 1961. Goa being mineral rich state has high grade ore specially iron ore, manganese and bauxite. Mining Concessions with patrimonial rights was granted during Portuguese colonial times started as private industry predominantly dominated by corporate like Sesa Goa, Baman families like Dempos, Salgaoncars, Timblos etc and others such as Chowgules. With the Patrimonial Rights license would be transferred automatically from the father to the Son. The export of ore from Goa started in 1948 to Japan. It is Goa’s ore that is partly responsible to resurrect Japanese economy after it was reduced to ashes from Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings in 1945. Export to Formerly Portuguese Colonialism in Goa ended in 1961.
Rulers changed in Goa on 19th December 1961. Portuguese rule ended. Indian rule began. However the nature of mining industry did not undergo any drastic changes. Mining industry continued business as usual. It remained private enterprise even though in rest of India at that time mining was nationalized. In the decade of 1970s it was mechanized. Manual mining that did not cause much damage to environment faded away. Mining aggression began.
Legally mining industry continued to function as it was during Portuguese colonial times till minor changes in 1987. Mining industry even challenged payment of royalty to Indian government in Supreme Court of India. Supreme Court even called Indian army action of December 1961 as ‘conquest through invasion’.
Legally Indian Parliament enacted ‘Goa Daman & Diu mining concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987’. This law was tailored for mining companies as it declared that leases granted by the Portuguese Colonial State is abolished and is deemed to be a mining lease granted under the Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957. This is by virtue of the provision contained under Rule 24 A (9) of Mineral Concession Rules 1960.
783 mining concessions were granted by the Portuguese colonial state. None of these mining concessions were cancelled or nationalized. Instead under 1987 law they were given fresh legal status as ‘lease’ and are deemed to be renewed till it is not cancelled by the State mining and geology department . In addition Goa Government issued more mining leases especially for bauxite. These 783 mining concessions cover 67,773 hectares of Goa’s land. All are not active but can be activated at any moment. Legal grounds are open for activation at any moment.
According to the information provided in the written reply in the Lok Sabha on March 11, 2011 by the Minister of Mines (Independent Charge) Shri Dinsha Patel, Goa has been granted 359 out of 769 mining leases that have been issued for the entire country as per the information maintained by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM). 46% of leases are in Goa. All the mining leases are private as per this statement in Parliament. Total land given for mining for whole of India according to this reply is 60473.68 hectares and share of Goa is 25877.40 hectares.
According to another Lok Sabha reply by minister of state for environment and forest (independent charge) Jayanthi Natarajan on 8th August 2011 central government has given its final approval for the diversion of 1,797.65 hectares of forest area in Goa for mining activities under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, in 48 cases during the period of January 1, 1980 to August 3, 2011 as per reports in times of India of 9th August 2011. The law that was meant to protect forest is used to destroy forest.
Indian Bureau of mines, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest, Central ground water board, State Pollution Control Board, Ministry of mines, etc are agencies that grant permissions to mining companies to oblige under some general and specific conditions. In case of violation of any of the conditions mining operations can be stopped by the concerned authorities and permissions revoked. There are over 150 conditions put to the mining companies. However neither central government nor the state government conducts regular inspection of mines to check the compliance of conditions. So violations go unchecked, violators go scotfree. So on ground every mine in Goa is illegal.
However Indian government considers mining illegal only if it does not have clearance from ministry of environment and forest after conducting ‘public hearings’. There are several cases wherein these public hearings were never conducted in public but in the chambers of the ministers with no information and awareness to public. Those which were conducted in public places in the presence of public witnessed majority opposing mining projects. In several cases like Sarvona and Morpirla there was 100 per cent opposition. Yet the ministry of Environment and Forest granted Environmental Clearances. The public verdicts at the public hearings was never respected and honored.
Mining in Goa was even carried on in wildlife sanctuaries till Supreme Court order closure in 2003. And ultimately closed down one year later. Mining sites in the forest however are not reclaimed. Mining legally cannot be carried on within 10 kilometer buffer zone from the sanctuaries. Goa government tried its level best to do away with buffer zone and allowed mining activities. In several cases Ministry of Environment and forest even granted Environmental clearance thus making mockery of its own laws. Environmental Clearances are even granted on the banks of rivers such as Kushavati and Chapora.
According to the reply given in the Goa Legislative Assembly by Goa’s Environment Minister Alexio Sequeira on 6th August 2009 Directorate of mines and geology has information of the existence of 336 mines in Goa of which 163 have Environmental Clearance (EC) issued by Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF). Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) has no information whether the essential conditions of EC certificate are fulfilled or not in case of mines in Goa, nor GSPCB is aware whether mines have filed required documents, returns, completed up to 30th June 2009; this information is available with MOEF Bengaluru (Banglore) office. Department of mines and Geology is only aware of 133 mining leases that are renewed.
In 2011 Justice M.B.Shah commission investigated illegal mining in Goa and found everything in fault with massive irregularities and recommended closure on export of iron ore from Goa.
Mining is given green signal in the Goa forest policy 2011. It says ‘Mineral prospecting/exploration or mining (fresh or existing leases and/or their renewal) including extraction of minor minerals shall be regulated as per the existing legal provisions.’ This means existing diversion of forest land to mining will not be taken back nor will future diversion of forest for mining be banned. Our forest is being gifted on a platter for mining industry.