HC grants interim stay on removal of 25 lakh tonnes of minerals mined from South Goa

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The High Court of Bombay at Goa on Saturday granted an interim stay on the removal of 25 lakh tonnes of minerals extracted from a former mining lease area in Cuddegal, Santona in South Goa. The Goa Foundation, an NGO, had filed a petition challenging the permission granted to Mineira Nacional Limitada (MNL), a former mining lease holder, for the transportation of the minerals on February 1.

The division bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere and Justice M S Jawalkar observed that, prime facie, the inspection report stated that it appears that respondent No.4-MNL had applied for transportation of material within the lease area. “As observed by the Assistant Geologist, sub-grade ROM material was lying partly inside the mining lease and partly outside the lease on the western side of the lease boundary. It is further stated that the total area covered under this material is approximately 28.2 Ha out of which 5.2 Ha falls within the lease area. It thus appears from the said report that about 23 Ha falls outside the lease area,” the court observed.

In an application filed on January 11, MNL had sought a permit from the Directorate of Mines and Geology to remove ore mined prior to 2007 from its lease area. The Goa Foundation argued that MNL was being granted a permit to transport ore worth Rs 230 crore, all of which had to go to the state of Goa. Instead, it settled for a royalty of Rs 20 crore, willingly giving public money to the former lease-holder, the petitioner stated.

The foundation’s counsel Norma Alvares argued that MNL had misrepresented to the authorities that sub-grade mineral, generated from 1991, was from their lease property. She said the January 25 inspection report of the Assistant Geologist from the Directorate was to the contrary and it showed that the sub-grade material was lying partly inside the mining lease area and partly outside on the western side of the lease boundary.

The Goa Foundation argued that no dump mining was permitted since the Expert Committee’s report on dump mining was still before the Supreme Court and it was yet to hear the matter. “The site inspection report of the DMG clearly indicated that the permit was to remove the 2.5 million tonnes from Dump No.3,” it submitted. Alvares said a stay was necessary to prevent further mining from the dump. She stated the Supreme Court had set up the committee to advise it on the issue of ‘dump mining’ in Goa and that the report of the committee is pending consideration of the top court.

Advocate General Devidas Pangam opposed the interim stay and argued that the order of the Supreme Court was with respect to the dump outside the leased area and not within the leased area. He said that the cabinet decision of February 23 as well as an opinion given by him on October 29, 2020, were in consonance with the decision of the SC. The authorities, while permitting the Respondent No.4 (MNL) to transport the material from the dump site, were fully conscious of the decision of the apex court, he said. MNL’s counsel S S Kantak supported the arguments made by the Advocate General, the court recorded.

The court asked the respondents to file affidavits in reply in two weeks and adjourned the case till December 17

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