Blog Archives

Nylon 6,6: Lest we forget

 In 1989, Dupont the world’s largest Nylon manufacturer, paid an estimated $1 million a month in fines and law suit settlements for environmental and public health infractions in 1 9 8 9 in the US. In 1 9 8 8, the multinational giant decided to set up a plant near Ponda in Goa, to manufacture Nylon 6,6. But the local people revolted. 

Environmentalists feared that pollution from this factory would destroy the environment and the livelihood of the people in the neighboring villages. They campaigned with the people, and the villages joined to oppose the setting up of the factory. They won the struggle after a long campaign, and loss of life of a young man in police firing.

This film recounts the dynamics of the anti-DuPont movement and examines the various issues from the villagers’ point of view. Villagers give their reasons for their hostility and how they eventually forced DuPont to leave Goa.

Naka Naka Dupont Naka (“No” to DuPont)
Director: Partha Sarkar & Reena Kukreja | Producer: Other Media Communications Pvt Ltd
Genre: Documentary | Produced In: 1998 | Story Teller’s Country: India

Goa Mining Case Day 7

-Claude Alvares

Seventh day at the Supreme Court of India on the Goa mining case:

The bench remained firm on its approach to the Goa mining case and the issues it has raised. Private mining companies took the stage for most of the day. A last ditch effort by Mukul Rohtagi to persuade the Court to allow the transport and sale of ore piled up at leases, jetties and stockyards was summarily rejected by the bench which indicated it was hearing the matter fully.

SG Mohan Parasaran

SG Mohan Parasaran

Mohan Parasaran, SG, began the morning’s arguments. He first presented to the Court a copy of the agreement signed between MOEF and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, in connection with the Regional Environmental Impact Assessment covering the Goa mining industry. A copy of that will shortly be scanned and put up on the Goa Foundation website. The ISM report was to be filed at the end of September, but now the institution has delayed the submission mostly likely to incorporate some of the concerns being expressed by the bench. A whole lot of people are awaiting submission of the final report, which will be in only at the end of October, unless it is delayed further. Parasaran waved an interim report submitted by ISM in April 2012, but said it was not very revealing since it was merely concerned with technical matters.

Parasaran next produced for the court a voluminous report by the Planning Commission on sustainable development in the mineral sector. He did not read any portion of it. A summary will be posted in these columns when we have the time to read it. Such reports are not written by Frederick Forsythe or Arundhati Roy, and often, one has to go through several bouts of dozing before one can complete reading the entire report.

Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - Jharkhand

Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad – Jharkhand

The third document produced by Parasaran was on the ground water and mining and according to him, dealt with Goa and Karnataka. He referred to new guidelines for the ground water extraction in mining areas issued on 15.11.2012. He was fair enough to inform the Court that the spurt in reports was all happening after the mining scenarios of Karnataka and Goa. He concluded by telling the Court: “Now we have all woken up!”

In relation to capping of production of ore from Goa, he sought to convey that a restriction was indeed placed when the EC was being considered after the EIA process. However the bench was not convinced because it said, it was still seeking answers to whether the cap should be on individual mining leases, area or state-wise. At the present moment, the Court said, once you find ore, you can take out all you want. All incentives are in place for that. Capping has to be done for intergenerational equity and to protect the environment. Parasaran agreed that present mining rules are like that. He finished and sat down.

AG, Goa tried to address the Court, but the Court disallowed that. There was a brief lull. K K Venugopal, who was supposed to lead the private brigade, was on his legs in another courtroom. Eventually, Sesa counsel

Mukul Rohatgi Photo courtesy: The Hindu

Mukul Rohatgi
Photo courtesy: The Hindu

 one of the most high priced lawyers in the country, took over and stayed on his legs till 1pm, when he retired for the day. He spoke for 1.5 hours.

He produced a 3 volume defence (dismay, more reading to do). His first assault was on what he called “the fixed stock theory” on natural resources. He said the theory had been debunked. He quoted an English authority to the effect that “fixed stocks” of minerals was a figment of the imagination, since ore reserves kept being revised upward every few years. The Court however interrupted him and told him not to waste his time on that argument. It said Rohtagi was an interested party, and it needed advice from independent experts.

Rise and Fall of Liberalism by Frederick Clairmonte

Rise and Fall of Liberalism by Frederick Clairmonte

Court asked Rohtagi if he had read a book on the Rise and Fall of Liberalism [written by Frederick Clairmonte?]. The book apparently argued that the business lobby was influencing all thinking across the world, including judicial thinking! I can lend you the book for you to read, said Justice Patnaik. He referred to English thinkers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau), the key people involved with the idea of the social contract. All these thinkers wanted laissez-faire policies, and the social contract was to be the given input. It all depends who is talking and his thinking will develop as per his interests! Court again said it wanted independent advice from experts, it could be ISM, NEERI or ICFRE. Rohtagi only objected vociferously to the CEC, saying it did not have the expertise. The CEC had migrated from its original expertis (forestry) now to mining, according to him. He did not refer to the fact that the Court in the Karnataka judgement went almost wholly by what the CEC had recommended.

So Rohtagi was unable to read his submissions on the demolition (according to him) of the fixed stock theory, so he went on to two other issues of great relevance to Sesa Goa: dumping outside the lease area and dump mining. He said he was also supposed to address the court on the buffer zone, but was desisting from doing so because K K Venugopal, batting for Salgoncar & Bro., would be dealing with that.

According to Rohtagi, the Supreme Court judgement in the Karnataka judgement holding that dumps outside the lease area were illegal was itself wrong since its interpretation flew in the face of statutory provisions. He said that dumps were approved in the EIA, EC and also in the mining plan. He conceded dumps were not shown on the lease plan, but certainly on the mining plan. He proposed a new way of bypassing the statutory recognition that the IBM has no authority to approve any activity beyond the sanctioned lease: he proposed to the Court that we must know that the “mine area is larger than the lease area.” He said one could not mine beyond the lease area, that is, the mining pit must be within the lease. However, the dump could be outside the lease. He referred to mines in which the entire lease was mineralised and the pit covered the entire lease area [probably referring to the Cosme Costa lease, illegally operated by Sesa Goa]. In such cases, the dump had to be outside the lease!

A check on greed in the iron age Photo courtesy:

A check on greed in the iron age
Photo courtesy:

The difficulty as I see it: the Karnataka judgement has become the basis for cancelling all those mining leases in which dumping outside the lease area exceeded 15% if the lease area. In Goa, in fact, encroachments outside the lease have touched 2-4 times the area of the lease itself, that is not 15%, but 200-400%. Rohtagi was therefore seeking to denude the Shah Commission’s report on these encroachments.

As far as the second issue is concerned, dump mining, Rohtagi said once the ore had already been removed and dumped somewhere, one did not require a fresh environment clearance to clear the dump. He said some of the dumps had been created 20 years ago [when there was no need to have environment clearance]. The Court wanted to find out if there weren’t any disputes in relation to the ownership of some of these old dumps. Rohtagi said there were no such conflicts in Goa at all! [Of course he was not present in Goa when Sesa Goa and Fomento recruited more than 300 private security guards to claim sub grade belonging to a third party. Or what about the R.S. Shetye ore grab? But lawyers say what they want.]

The Court responded that it was a policy matter and if the Government decided that dumping mining needed an EC, they had the power to insist on it.

Rohtagi showed the Court pictures of the Sanquelim dump which has been shown by Sesa Goa to every visitor to Goa now for several years. He showed the Court pictures of the Vaghuriem dump without telling them [naturally] that it was in violation of the EC and consent imposed by the Pollution Control Board. When you are with your back to the wall, take the bull by the horns. Even the brazen abuse of the 2003 order of the Bombay High Court restraining companies from raising dumps without explicit permission from the IBM and the Water Resources Dept was turned on its head, claiming the High Court had not prohibited dumping outside the lease area!

Rohtagi then took the court to the MCDR Rules to show that the environment was considered when mining operations were sanctioned. [Despite these regulations, not a single mining lease can show you even a one foot high hill of topsoil which they are to keep aside prior to mining below the surface.] Rohtagi insisted that the system was in place in all respects for environmentally safe mining. The bench noted that all these rules had only been inserted in 2003. However, illegal and environmentally unsustainable mining commenced thereafter.

Rohtagi told the court about the mining bypass project and then disclosed that the bypass would only use trucks that would be five times the capacity of existing trucks. He said present day trucks were too many and caused pollution. When they were replaced by 50 tonne vehicles on the mission byepass road, all problems would be a thing of the past.

Rohtagi concluded by pleading they be permitted to take out the ore laying in stacks on leases, jetties and stockyards. He clearly distinguished this from mining the dumps. He said this material had already been taken out and it was now an environmental hazard. The Court was unwilling to consider his plea. We will allow 50,000 tonnes and they will take 5 million, one of the judges said. In any case, this was not a hearing to vacate any stay, the Court was hearing the petition fully.

K K Venugopal Photo courtesy: The Hindu

K K Venugopal
Photo courtesy: The Hindu

Afternoon, K K Venugopal took over and remained on his feet till the Court adjourned for the day at 4.00 pm.

KKV said he was arguing the case of VM Salgaoncar and Bro. The main objective was to persuade the Court to cancel the rejection that the Forest Advisory Committee had made of 4 Salcaoncar leases that were in the 1 km safety and no-mining zone from the boundary of wildlife sanctuaries. There is a brief history to that which he took time to establish.

Salgaoncar & Bro [together with other lease holders like Prafulla Hede] had approached the Supreme Court with an application in Writ Petition No.460/2004 (another GF petition in the Supreme Court) to direct the Ministry of Environment & Forests to treat Goa as a special case or exemption from the order of the Supreme Court declaring the 1 km zone as a safety zone around all wildlife sanctuaries in the country. The Supreme Court directed the applications to be placed before the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife for its decision. The Standing Committee was divided: the majority allowed the mines to function though they were in the 1 km zone, but restrained them from exceeding the mining pit area. Three non-official members vociferously objected to the proposals. The matter was sent back to the Supreme Court, which seeing the division, referred the matter to the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) appointed under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The FAC said it was rejecting the proposals. The matters have lain there since then and KKV was essentially to resuscitate them and liberate them from the FAC burial. KKV argued that wildlife matters are not touched by the FCA but the bench insisting that wildlife and forest matters are interconnected. ANS Nadkarni tried to intervene to tell the Court the State Government had submitted its proposals for buffer zones for Goa (1 km) and the MOEF was supposed to notify them, which would make the discussion raised by KKV redundant. But the Court told Nadkarni that the most difficult thing is to get the govt to issue final notifications. The Court then rose. Resume on 3rd, at 10.30 am.

[Text in square brackets sourced to CA]. This is not a press note, but a personal rendition of the hearings to preserve my memory so that we are ready for rejoinder when the time arrives.

Goa Mining Case Day 6

-Claude Alvares

Notes on the sixth day of the Supreme Court’s hearings on the Goa mining case

SG Mohan Parasaran addressed the Court the entire day and was on his legs at the time the Court arose. The matter will resume on 1st October and 3rd October (Gandhi Jayanti on 2nd October being a holiday.) The hearing may stretch into 8th October and then the Court will go on vacation.

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India

Advocate General, Goa, ANS Nadkarni appeared in Court today. He told me he went to pay his respects to Lord Ayappan every year on the same days, so this year, the Court fixed the Goa mining case on the same days. He was therefore unable to come to the Supreme Court because Lord Ayappan had not granted special leave. Besides, last week, Datar was on his feet and it was therefore not appropriate to dislodge him while he was presenting Goa’s case.

Court wanted to know the scope of the study being carried out by Indian School of Mines. Did the ISM have environmental experience? Did their study involve issues like carrying capacity and inter-generational equity? Till the time of rising, no one from MOEF could produce the order setting up the ISM study. Yesterday they told the Court the study would be ready by end of this month and would be produced next week. Today they said the ISM report would be ready by the end of October [probably so that they could re-write some portions and pretend they were always conscious of these issues!)

SG Mohan Parasaran

SG Mohan Parasaran

From Parasaran’s account it appeared that the Court had indeed been fooled into hearing the petition. Court wanted to know how they had been persuaded to hear the petition in the first place and why it was being blamed for the stay on Goa mining considering the following facts that became clear during the hearing:

a) ISM study, disclosed to the Court at the last minute, would not be ready till the end of October 2013. (Please note that the study would then be copied, made available to petitioner and all respondents and they would all have rights to comment on the report and whether they accept or reject it, since it was not ordered by the Court itself.)

b) Ministry informed the Court it had set up an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to review all the 139 environment clearances given for Goa mining
leases. The EAC already had three meetings. (Though the Court requested last week, MOEF did not produce the minutes of the 3 meetings.) Parasaran informed the Court the final meeting of the EAC would take place on October …. After that Dussehra. Then the Ministry would get the report and decide on whether the ECs should be cancelled. To do that, all the lease owners affected would hve to be given a personal hearing. Imagine a personal hearing for nearly 139 ECs! Then the MOEF would take a final decision and place its report before the Supreme Court. [This lengthy process would probably not be completed before December.] After that, petitioner would have a right to agree or challenge the decisions taken. So would the individual mining lease holders. Till all this was done, stay would remain in place. In fact, even if the Supreme Court vacated its stay today, mining could not resume because the review process had first to be completed.

c) The Court was also informed that the buffer zone issue was being finalised. [Apparently, a team of people including the Environment Minister Natarajan is presently in Goa on this issue.] The buffer zone issue has been complicated further because of the Madei Tiger Reserve proposal. If that is accepted, the buffer zone would be 25 km. The report on buffer zones would also take some two weeks for completion, according to Parasaran.

d) The Goa Govt had asked the Indian Road Congress to do the carrying capacity of Goa’s roads in connection with the load of mining trucks permissible. That report was yet to come in…….

The Court therefore said it would have been better if this petition had been put up for hearing in November. At least all these reports would have been in by then. [The Court cannot give a judgement right now without the reports since these are all related to the issues raised in the petition.] Obviously till these issues are resolved, no vacation of stay. In fact, the Court is not hearing any plea for vacation of stay. In fact, Goa govt has been asking for dismissal of the petition, which has been rejected.

Parasaran read out a prepared note. In the note, he told the Court 5 mining leases had been ordered to shut down in August 2012. He told the Court the Goa govt refused to carry out the requests of the MOEF to stop work on leases that were found to be without NBWL clearance. He said he agreed with the CEC that 43 mining leases fell within the wildlife sanctuaries and within 1 km of the wildlife sanctuaries. He listed around 30 leases in whose cases the need for a wildlife clearance was not even stated in the environment clearance. He also listed several cases where NBWL/wildlife clearance had not been obtained despite this being a requirement. He said only 10 mining leases fell outside the 10 km range (but even these could be having other violations).

About the continuing violations he told the Court, referring to the Goa govt: “They are to be blamed, but we too are to be blamed.” He informed the Court that though the MOEF suspended the environment clearances in September 2012, the EAC to examine the cases was set up only six months later, in March 2013! Justice Kalifullah wanted to know whether the terms of reference for the EAC doing the review included the damage these mines were causing to the environment. Parasaran said no. Justice Kalifullah a second time expressed his firm conviction that maybe mining should be shut down forever. Justice Pathak reformulated the proposal to say that there were two economic models: one in which mining was permissible and the other, in which mining was banned.

Parasaran agreed that leases given out by government could be construed to be a largesse and therefore must be in accordance with law.

The bench spent considerable time on the amount of ore that could be extracted from Goa. It wanted to know why Justice Shah had recommended a cap of 12.5 million tonnes. It wanted to know from Parasaran on what grounds the MOEF had granted ECs for extraction of 66 million tonnes annually. The Court examined the provisions of the MMDR Act, and came to the conclusion that the Act had no guidance and no limits and no environmental concerns in respect of the quantity of ore removable from the earth. It was concerned merely with mining. It encouraged mining. It disclosed no concern for exhaustion of resources or that anything should be left for future generations. Chapter V of MCDR, 1988 laid down some environmental dos and donts, but these were after a mining plan was approved. The mining plan was not based on placing any restrictions on the amount of ore that could be removed from the ground.

The Court was told that market demand also played a role. This was not taken kindly to by the bench. It said clearly that meeting market demand and the requirements of environment protection did not go together.

Goa Foundation, other NGO’s & Citizens of Goa submitted a memorandum to Goa State Pollution Control Board

CNN IBN News Screenshot (Sept 10, 2012)

The Justice Shah Commission report on illegal mining is probably the best thing that could have happen to curb and punish all those involved in illegal mining. The blame game and pointing of fingers has already began among the political class. Meanwhile the Goa Foundation lead by Claude Alvares, other NGO’s & Citizens of Goa have submitted the following memorandum to the Chairman of Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB)


The mining operations in the State of Goa are covered under Section 25 of the Water Act, 1974 and Section 21 of the Air Act, 1981.  Without prior consent under these Acts from the Pollution Control Board, mining operations cannot be conducted on any mining lease.

It has come to the knowledge of these complainants that all over Goa on various leases preparatory work is being conducted with a view to opening the mines for full scale operations in the month of October.

All consents issued to mining lease owners under the Air and Water Acts have expired on the 31st of July 2012.  Any work or operations connected with mining which are underway on any mining lease without any consent from the Board are therefore guilty of illegal mining under the Air and Water Acts. The Board has no option but to issue stop work orders and commence the process of initiation of prosecution for operating without the necessary consent.

In the meanwhile on 10th September, 2012, the Goa Government has issued an order for temporary suspension of all mining operations in the State of Goa as of 11th September, 2012.  A copy of the Order is annexed to this representation.

As can be seen from the perusal of the Order which is in the nature of a Stop Work Order, all mines stand closed as of 11th September, 2012. The Collector of South Goa has also this morning issued an Order banning mining operations and transportation in entire South Goa district with immediate effect from 11th September, 2012. However, Collector of North Goa is yet to issue an Order.

Claude Alvares and Ramesh Gauns briefing the media

All the affected mining companies/lease owners have filed the necessary applications for renewal of consent and these are pending decision by the Board. In view of the Order dated 10th September, 2012, all these applications are bound to be summarily rejected and cannot be kept pending. This is therefore our firm demand that the Board will take immediate steps to ensure total rejection of all pending renewals within the next 24 hours.

We wish to draw to your attention that there is already PIL Writ Petition No. 11 of 2011 pending against the Board in the Bombay High Court which is precisely on the issue of the Board illegally permitting mining operations without consent of the Board. The Court has already passed Order dated 20th July, 2011, by which 19 mines were ordered to close as they did not have necessary consent.

We also wish to draw to your attention that Justice Shah Commission of Enquiry into illegal mining in the State of Goa has been submitted to the Ministry of Mines in March, 2012. The Report has been accepted by the Government of India by communication dated 7th September, 2012, addressed to the Government of Goa. In the said report two major issues of importance are drawn to your attention.

  1. The Shah Commission has come to the finding that “all modes of illegal mining, as stated in the above Notification (setting up the Shah Commission) are being committed in the State of Goa.”

The Commission has come to a finding that majority of the mining leases have been illegally renewed, large number of mining leases have been renewed in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, the renewal applications of 42 mining leases have been illegally condoned, that there has been gross abuse of Rule 24 A and several sections which pertain to Rule 24 A etc. A copy of the Shah Commission report is hereby handed over to you on a CD which the Board may consider.  The Shah Commission has also come to the conclusion that practically all mining leases have been operating in violation of Supreme Court Order dated 4.8.2006 and 4.12.2006.  In other words the Commission has established that consents granted to these mining leases in the recent past are in violation of the above two orders.

  1. The Commission has indicted the Chairman and Member Secretary, Board officials and other responsible officials of the Goa State Pollution Control Board on several grounds of being in collusion with the mining companies, favouring some mining lessees against the others, permitting mining leases to operate for a period extending upto six years.  The Commission has observed that it is only pursuant to the enquiry conducted by the Commission that the Board has taken action after gross delay.  In connection with the delayed action of the Board the Commission has recommended prosecution of the officials concerned.

Ramesh Gauns speaking to the media

We therefore demand that till the Board is satisfied that all the required statutory approvals are presented to it and that all the Supreme Court Orders are followed, no Consent shall be issued by the Board for mining operations in the State of Goa.

 In conclusion we therefore demand:

  1. The Board to reject all the mining renewal applications filed by mining companies within time bound period of 24 hours since the closure notice has also been issued by the Goa Government and the Collector, South Goa.
  1. The Board will write to the Government to find out which mining companies have conducted activities linked to mining on their leases between 1st August, 2012 till today and launch appropriate criminal proceedings against the lease owners concerned.
  1. The Board shall not grant any consent for any mining operation till such time that the Board is satisfied about the validity of the lease with permissions granted and compliance with the Orders of the Supreme Court dated 4.8.2006 and 4.12.2006.


Goa Foundation Snubs the Goa Government’s Draft Mining Policy (Major Mineral) 2012 as ‘Dump Mining Policy’

Claude Alvares
Photo Courtesy: The Hindu

Director of Goa Foundation Claude Alvares and his team of Goa Foundation, explaining the Pros and Cons of the Draft Mining Policy (Major Mineral) 2012  to the media and also forwarded their Observation and Suggestions on Draft Mining Policy to the Directorate of Mines and Geology, Panjim. We hope the Government is listening the serious issue highlighted by the Team of Goa Foundation.

Goa Foundation Logo

Here are the following Observations/Comments/Suggestion and Demands of Goa Foundation

Suggestions on Draft Mining Policy

The draft Goa Mining Policy 2012 (which in another place in the same document is referred to as the “Goa Mineral Policy 2012”) has a handful of good points which need to be highlighted for praise at the outset:

a) The policy promises to decide all pending renewal applications within 4 months. 98% of the mining leases in Goa are operating on the basis of applications for renewals filed 25 years ago in 1987-88.

b) It declares that it will terminate and close down all those leases that were granted through illegal “condonation of delay” orders. This involves a total of 40 mines (30 condoned by Rane, 10 by Digambar Kamat), though these are not listed in the policy document.

c) All concessions abolished by the 1987 Act will be finally abolished.

d) The policy promises to make the ban on mining transportation from June 7th to September 2nd each year into a permanent feature and thus no longer dependent on individual Collector’s initiative, as happened this year in south Goa.

e) Diversion of new forest areas for mining activity will no longer be permitted.

These are the only good points that one can find in a document 37 pages long, with 19 chapters. There are reasons for this: of the 90 points discussed in the document, 29 deal with the government’s new found love for “dump mining”. In fact, the policy should be renamed a “Dump Mining Policy” instead of a “Mining Policy.” Since the document itself admits that dump mining will become unviable by 2015-16, this means this policy is destined to have an extremely short life.

Rampant Mining
Photo Courtesy:

Unfortunately, the five points listed above do not salvage the draft policy document as a whole which otherwise is filled with mostly empty platitudes and lofty pronouncements. None of these leads to any specific measures listed in the document to achieve even the very little that one finds of use. There is complete lack of data to analyze the draft policy document. There should be some base data tabulated. Then many of the claims of the policy can be evaluated: how many mines, beneficiation plants, pig iron / sponge iron plants, loading jetties, trucks, truck drivers, barges? How much forest land has been used, how much land outside of mines has been used for dumps? How much revenues from royalties, export duties, barge tax, road transport cess, etc. Total employment in mines. There are no details or data provided.

The policy does not indicate how its proposals will solve serious problems that plague the industry and its regulation and most of which stem from the government’s inability or unwillingness to implement existing laws. Many of the policy features, like mine rehabilitation, are part of existing laws. Policies cannot substitute for existing laws. Neither can the government claim credit for announcing them, since they are already in force even if hardly implemented.

Cuddegalivoril Soddo Mines, Savordem, Goa.
Photo Credit: Andrea Pereira
Source: The Hindu

Serious issues completely ignored:

Several serious issues are completely ignored or swept under the mining carpet in the policy document and this gravely undermines the credibility of the document. These include:

1) The Preamble to the Draft Policy recognizes that mining in Goa has been dictated by “demand for low grade ore in the international market”, leading to the “most corrupt regulatory regime of the previous government” and a “peak of chaotic and unregulated mining without any concern for the fragile ecology and environment of the State.” Such strong words require a proper investigation as to why regulatory enforcement has completely failed in Goa. No penal action is proposed for the loot of mineral ore and its sale by the principal lease owners and companies, so well documented in the PAC report.

Many of the same procedures, and Government servants implementing them, are still operating. It is inconceivable how a Draft Policy which purports to draw a line under the anarchy of the past five years can proceed without giving concrete proposals based on how such wholesale illegality can be avoided in the future. In fact, it does not show how sustainable mining can be done by the same group of mining lobbies that did unsustainable and unprincipled mining in the last 5 years. Thus the Draft Policy has missed an opportunity to provide a proper framework for a regulated and sustainable mining industry in Goa. In fact, the policy does not propose any features that one would even remotely find associated with “sustainable” mining practice.

2) The policy does not address the most important issue of the distribution of the wealth generated by mining. At the moment, only two or three companies are  reaping windfall gains from the exploitation and sale of what is a public resource. The policy has nothing to say about this, even though only two companies between them exported more than 35 million tonnes, mostly by operating leases not owned by them and in violation of specific provisions of law. In our opinion, the solution to this can only come from handover of all the mining leases to a public sector firm so that total income from sale of ore will accrue to the government (instead of mere royalties as at present).

3) We also add here that Government of India PSUs, National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) worked more efficiently than private mining companies and lease holders in Goa. This is substantiated from the fact that despite selling ore to domestic steel makers at subsidized rates, NMDC earned a high net profit margin of 65% during 2011-12. And this was achieved after payment of all royalties, duties & taxes to the government exchequer. Sesa, on the other hand, during 2011-12 earned net profit margin of mere 43%. A private sector company working less efficiently than a PSU raises eyebrows as to whether under-invoicing is rampant in this industry as published in various news reports. Under-invoicing means theft of our resources. Only handover to a government corporation can control such practices.

4) In line with the thrust of the draft policy – which appears to be to promote the interests of private interests – the government has in fact announced that it will be using public resources for the construction of bypass roads and for the rehabilitation of mines. In the case of both the above projects, public resources are being diverted for private convenience of the mining industries already well-endowed and cash-rich after their unprincipled plunder of mineral ore during the past five years.

5) For a government which claims to rely upon professionals, it is unclear why the reports of three expert committees on capping of mining production have been ignored. Recommendations for capping the output of Goa mining to 20 or at the most 25 million tonnes have been made by the Gadgil Panel report, the Task Force on Regional Plan 2021 and the Mashelkar Committee report.

In fact, these expert committees (two of them appointed by the Goa government) have recommended cancellation of several mining leases and progressive closure of the mining industry as well. None of these recommendations are discussed or dissented from in the draft policy document. Why has the government wasted the time of these important people by setting up these committees in the first place?

6) The capping proposals of the draft policy as a whole are quite vague and meaningless. First and foremost, government of Goa has no power to cap production since the limits are laid down by the Ministry of Environment & Forests in its environment clearance orders. Any proposal for capping will therefore have to go officially from the government of Goa to the MoEF which will then have to recall the environment clearances issued and lay down fresh (i.e., lower) limits.

7) When one reads the section of capping in the draft policy document, one soon discovers that it is not talking of a cap on production or on export of ore. It is only seeking a cap on dump exploration. It appears that primary extraction will be restricted to 20 million tonnes, and dump mining will be allowed to raise 25 million tonnes, making a total of 45 million tonnes. There is no indication of how the extraction limit of 25 million tons is to be distributed among nearly 90 working mines nor is any idea available on each one’s share in the lifting of dumps. As stated earlier, this is in any case the MoEF’s prerogative. It finally emerges that the cap is related to the capacity of the existing roads which the government feels can take 45 million tonnes. What is the basis for this calculation has not been disclosed in the document. However, the policy nicely provides two escape routes for illegal or excess mining: one, if more ore is transported by barges, this will be outside the cap. How does the government calculate this, since all final movement of ore in any case is by barge? If the capacity of the road increases, the cap again goes. There will be no capping if the transport is done by private roads. Thus the cap is not related to sustainability of the environment but due to the limitations of infrastructure. This is completely contrary to the statements made in the first page of the draft policy.

8) The document mentions the capping of ore production in Bellary district to 25 million tonnes. Consider the differences between Goa and Bellary and see how atrocious the capping proposal of 45 million tonnes for Goa really is:4

Bellary District

Goa State

District Area 8446 sq kms State Area 3702 sq kms (Area wise Goa is

2.28 times smaller than Bellary district)

Mining over entire district Mining concentrated in 4 talukas out of 12
90 mines under operation 105 mines under operation and 94

more have completed PH. (Total 199

leases have completed PH)

Only 5 rivers flowing 11 rivers are flowing across the leases

with 42 tributaries.

Tunga Bhadra Reservoir Selaulim Reservoir supplies drinking water to 55% of population but is now contaminated with manganese above permission limits

At the moment Goa is contributing around 50% of ore to the country’s total export production.  However, when compared to the rest of the country, the geographical area of Goa is 888 times smaller than the rest of the country. Thus the exploitation of Goa is 460 times more than its geographical capacity.

9) Thus there is a display of bravado of the capacity of the Goa government to take action to regulate mining even though the power to administer the MMDR Act, 1957 and the rules under the Act are squarely with the central government acting through the Regional Controller of Mines. In fact, there is no scope for the Goa government to regulate any mining activity on leases as its officers are not empowered and have no jurisdiction. However, the entire draft policy makes no mention of the IBM! As of date, there is neither sharing of information or even simple communications between the Department of Mines & Geology and the IBM. Such is the state of affairs.

The mining waste products flow down the hills thereby destroying agricultural land in Goa.
Photo Credit: ksidharth

On what the government of Goa has the powers to do, there are no policy proposals:

1) For example, clear statement on closure of mines within the Selaulim dam catchment is missing. The water in the reservoir is now polluted with manganese, a toxic heavy metal, in excess of permissible norms. (The dam supplies water to half of the population of Goa.) Apparently, the wealth of a handful of mine owners is a greater consideration for the government of Goa than the health of half its population.

2) Clear statement on buffer zones considered necessary for protection of wildlife and wildlife sanctuaries is completely lacking.

3) Clear statement on mining going below or intersecting the water table is missing. We cannot sacrifice our water systems simply because some people want to get rich and do not mind destroying ground water aquifers in the process. The policy should forbid any mining below the water table.

4) Declaration on auction of leases (instead of renewal) is not proposed even though this is now the law of the land after the judgement of the Supreme Court of India in the 2G scam case.

5) There is no discussion of actions that need to be taken after the Goa government came to the conclusion that the Ministry of Environment & Forests had issued environment clearances without adequately studying individual mining proposals.

6) There is no discussion of what the Goa government is doing to implement the conditions laid down in the environment clearance orders issued to the various mining companies or lease owners. No actions have been taken against mining companies involved in mining in excess of environmental limits imposed on individual mines.

7) Large scale violations of existing laws and conditions are daily brought to the notice of the Goa government. Nothing is done in response to these complaints except making site visit reports and then having them filed.

8) No mine till today has been able to prevent pollution of water bodies in Goa from mining operation especially during the rainy season with huge run off silting the rivers and water bodies.

9) There is no policy on the 100% occupation of many public roads by the mining industry. A mining policy should consider the impact of such transport on the health, safety and equanimity of the public and should announce a sharp reduction in public road usage by mining trucks. However, it does nothing of the sort. The policy should advocate that the right to ply a truck on these routes shall be auctioned off in a permit system, even by village panchayats, to ensure that the maximum value is actually collected in compensation for the disturbance and inconvenience created.

10) No mining activities should be permissible in areas covered under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Mining activities must be approved by Gram Sabhas.

11) No mining leases can be approved in lands owned by comunidades. This is not only illegal since it is contrary to provisions of the MMDR Act, but contrary to the Supreme Court’s judgement on common lands.

Goa Sweet Land of Mine
Photo Courtesy:

More observations on specific clauses:

a) Of the 14 objectives listed in the policy only one (1.1.9) makes a casual mention of ecology and environment, 7 deal with exploration.  This means that Goa will be under the permanent threat of mining till every bit of environment has been exhumed, disturbed and unsettled.

b) A policy that talks on geological mapping of mine resources (1.1.4) does not talk of the need to map a more important mineral i.e., water in the form of ground water aquifers, streams, rivers, etc., which are vital components of Goa’s ecology.  There is no discussion of the incompatibility between mining and drinking water needs of the local population.  Several villagers like Pissurlem and Sirigao are now bereft of drinking water as well.

c) The claim of the policy to generate employment for locals (1.4.6) is vague and without quantification. There is significant unemployment in Goa. However, analysis shows that employment of Goans in mining and related transport is very low. It should be a requirement of mines to increase this radically. However, as any one even remotely connected with the history of mining in Goa will testify, employment in mining has come down rapidly over the last 15-20 years. Bulk of the persons involved are now in the transportation of ore and the vast majority of these are non-Goans.

Senior level management in all firms are not Goan as the state government, despite the long history of mining in Goa, has never bothered to take up the setting up of a mining institute for training local persons for higher level employment and management. Managers imported from outside the State have little emotional concern for the natural environment as they return to their home states after employment ends.

e) The discussion in No.2.6 about minerals being conserved for future generation is 100% pure hypocrisy in view of the fact that the government now wishes to promote even the lifting of mining dumps stabilised under earlier EMPs and MPs which were to be used for backfilling and restoration of the mine areas, and to bring them back to their original condition. The entire thrust of the policy is on export and revenue, so that future generations have neither.

f) The funniest observation is at No.2.9 which talks of utilisation of existing pits for water conservation and harvesting crops when the same pits have been emptied of all the ground water by day and night pumping, causing drought in many areas.  The statement should be viewed in the context of the Goa Ground Water Regulation Act 2002 which has systematically kept the ground water in the mining leases out of its ambit. This is typical Goa Government bluff. Allowing pits for harvesting of water provides adequate justification for government to justify the sale of mining dumps.

g) Any document which in present circumstances and experience promises to improve the standard of living of those residing in mining areas should be seen as completely divorced from reality. Mining has created hell for people in the villages, destroyed the quality life, created huge inconvenience on public roads, destroyed ground water aquifers permanently and destroyed agricultural areas and forests. For doing this, it has ensured that the standard of living of half a dozen mining families has improved for the next 50 generations. It would be most appropriate if the Mines Department office is located in the midst of the mining area if that is the only way it can be exposed to the realities of mining.

h) The emphasis on social responsibility schemes and mineral related tourism is no substitute for a properly regulated and sustainable economy. The proposal for 3% CSR is ridiculous if we consider that the new Mines and Minerals Bill being drafted by the central government talks of 26% of profits to devolve to village communities affected by mining. There is in fact no obligation on the mining company to continue with social welfare programmes after it has stopped mining. Communities will be left economically and socially devastated, following the closure of mines, which could happen whenever a mining company feels it is not longer profitable. Mining has a detrimental effect on the State’s tourism through depletion of water and destruction of natural habitat.

i) Government cannot claim it does not know of the negative impacts of mining on the social, economic, health and environmental fabric of Goa. A large number of studies are already available on the impact of mining in Goa on the environment from the TERI Report of 1997, the NIO Report, Swaminathan Eco Development Plan, Regional Plan 2021, Mashelkar Report. However this government which proclaims dependence on experts has decided to ignore all of them in its single minded policy of protecting the mining industries atleast for another generation to come.

Mining devastates Goa.
Photo Credit: K. Mohideen

In conclusion, it appears:

a) The Draft Mining Policy is largely a justification for the mining lobby to undo the ban on dump mining by the Congress government. This is a retrograde step in view of the fact that till now government is unable to regulate or otherwise control any mining activity in the mining areas.

b) Much of so-called dump mining in the past five years is excess mining indulged in by the companies. Several excess ore dumps were created in the past five years. If dump mining becomes legal, more excess mining will take place with impunity.

c) The manner in which this policy has been quickly drafted and laid on the floor of the house is indication that the government is keen on removing the moratorium on new environment clearances installed by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, as the moratorium is linked to approval of the State’s Mining Policy.

For the above reasons, the draft mining policy document of the Goa government is being rejected by civil society and all persons affected by mining. Since the mineral ores are part of the wealth belonging to the people of the State and not to the government of the State, a policy which reflects the following principles and thrusts should be drawn up in place of the draft circulated by government.

We demand that the new mineral/mining policy should be based on the following:

1) As per the Constitution of India, sub-soil minerals are the property of the State of Goa. If these iron ore assets are extracted, then the highest value needs to be generated from them since the cost is also huge. Further, the money generated needs to be used towards creation of fresh assets so that the overall wealth of the State of Goa increases as a result of these mineral assets.

2) In view of considerable environmental damage already done by mining to the ecological endowments of the State, and in view of inability of the government to deal with private actors in mining operations, all mining leases shall be terminated and reassigned to a government corporation after being cancelled under Section 4A of the MMDR Act, 1957. At no time will the government corporation extract more than 10 million tonnes per annumMining being incompatible with Goa’s ecology will be brought to a complete halt by the year 2021. No lease shall be renewed. No new lease shall be granted.

3) Till the handover to a government corporation is completed, these mineral assets should be auctioned for limited periods to maximize value to the state, after geological data is collected by the state.

4) As a corollary, any illegal mining is theft from the State of Goa, and should be prosecuted as such.

5) As a corollary, money generated from mining should be invested (and not frittered away in subsidies). The most important use is to restore services that may be destroyed by mining, such as water filtration and storage and forest services. Of almost equal priority is to mitigate impacts on the environment, from health impacts all the way to carbon generation.

6) After this, an obvious use is to reduce the State government debt. Other options are to spend on education, entrepreneurship, promote sustainable industries. Ideally, we can do all three in a coordinated fashion through education-industry clusters (eco-tourism, heritage tourism, bio-pharmaceuticals).

7) All mines in the Selaulim reservoir catchment are to be closed forthwith and the leases terminated.

8) All mines within a 5 km radius of the boundaries of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks and within wildlife corridor areas to be closed forthwith and the leases terminated.

9) Government will appoint an advisory panel to advise on how to restore the colossal damages done to the environment by mining in different areas of Goa.

10) Government will compute the costs of damage done to the environment of Goa and demand the necessary compensation from the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA) and its members.

11) Government will compute the costs of damage to the health of persons residing in the mining areas and along mining roads and demand the necessary damages from the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association and its members.

12) Government will communicate to the Environment Ministry that no further applications for mining leases and mining operations shall be entertained from the State of Goa until the cap as desired is put into place. All applications for mining and prospecting operations shall  be disposed of as rejected.

By: Dr Claude Alvares, Ramesh Gauns, Dean D’cruz, Rahul Basu, Rajendra Kakodkar, Anthony Simoes, Krishnendu Mukherjee, Shankar Jog and several others too numerous to name.