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
Advertisements

Goa Mining Case Day 5

-Claude Alvares

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

The entire day was taken by the poorly briefed lawyer appearing for the Goa government, Arvind Datar. He specialises in customs and tax matters, and was reduced to reading from the affidavit, while brief by several people who kept whispering in his years. One of the persons assisting was one Shripal, who apparently is the Vice President of a mining company and who, according to people in the know, actually runs the Department of Mines and Geology.

book

Mr Datar spoke till 3.25 pm when he finally sat down, relieved it was all over. He is a decent bloke, one of the few honest lawyers in the business, but even he was unable to save the day. No AG in court even on the 5th day, even as the Goa government’s case was clearly floundering.

Datar first addressed the court on its query of the previous day, about how it had arrived at the cap of 45 million tonnes given in its draft mining policy. He again admitted the figure was ad-hoc, but the 20 million fresh extraction was based on average of mine extraction from 2001 to the 2004 period, when it was between 18 to 21 million tonnes. so the govt took the average of 20 MT. He could not give any reason for the 25 million from dumps.

However, he informed the court of a new development. He said that the Dhanbad-based Indian School of Mines (ISM), a “deemed university”, had been recruited by the MOEF to do a macro EIA of Goa State and that its report would be ready by the end of September. Though he said he had not seen the report, he appeared to be keen to rely upon it. As if on cue, Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for Vedanta, immediately popped up to sing the virtues of the ISM. He ended his singing of the praises of this institution by saying he was saying all this because he knew the “other side” was going to object to the ISM report. Obviously, the entire mining industry appears to be in the know of what the report is going to say. Probably it is going to also promote the figure of 45 million tonnes. More about the ISM study when it is handed over to us in Court on the 1st of October. Court said we are not interested in the reputation of the “deemed univ” or any of its attributes that you are describing but only in the substance of the report.

Photo courtesy: indologygoa.files

Photo courtesy: indologygoa.files

Back to the mining policy: the Court asked for details of the staff of the mining department. Datar mentioned 300 persons were being recruited. The Court raised the issue of their training, since they would be all new. So they would not really be available to do any monitoring or work till that time.

Court once again referred to the Berlin 2 Guidelines on Mining and Environment and expressed its view that they had to get proper scientists to get rehabilitation work done.

When Datar insisted that all the damage had occurred due to the corruption of the previous govt., the Court stopped him and advised him that they were not impressed with the argument. Government is a permanent institution. Whatever party was in power was of no concern to them. In fact, referring to Justice Shah and CEC, the Court said they were non-political people, so their view was better considered. The Court asked, what are your remedial measures? The Court was only concerned with the limits set down by the Constitution. The environment had to be protected. The economy too had to be protected, people needed work. There was a need to balance.

A board informing the suspension of mining operation outside the Sesa mining at Bicholim in Goa. The Supreme court of India has issued an order halting all mining actvities in the state of Goa on the basis of the Justice M.B. Shah Commission report which estimated a whopping Rs.35,000 crore loss to the state due to illegal mining over the years. Photo courtesy: igep.in

A board informing the suspension of mining operation outside the Sesa mining at Bicholim in Goa. The Supreme court of India has issued an order halting all mining actvities in the state of Goa on the basis of the Justice M.B. Shah Commission report which estimated a whopping Rs.35,000 crore loss to the state due to illegal mining over the years.
Photo courtesy: igep.in

Datar however objected to the miners being labelled as “mafia”, as “vultures”. He said this was an instance of “metaphysical exuberance” not based on facts. He said “things were bad” but now the new government was keen to make a fresh beginning.

Court responded: “Handsome is who handsome does, not handsome looks.” They wanted action on the ground. What had been offered so far were only theoretical.

Justice Kalifulla interjected at this stage to ask about the 3 Rs: reclamation, rehabilitation, restoration. He wanted to know what the Goa govt had done on the 3 Rs. Govt said they were going to recruit NEERI. The discussion was now about how could aquifers and mountains be rehabilitated? At this stage, Ranjit Kumar, senior counsel for the respondents, told the court how in the Aravalli mining case (where he appeared as amicus) entire mountain had been removed by miners. Justice Nijjar interjected at this stage that the mountain were not disappearing, they were being taken from here and could be found in China.

Mine at Colamb Photo courtesy: Save Goa

Mine at Colamb
Photo courtesy: Save Goa

After Datar read out portions of the mining Policy which stated that they are going to rehabilitate the mines and then give the land to poor farmers for agriculture and horticulure and allied activities Justice Kalifulla asked how are you going to rehabiitate these mines ? Its not so simple. We have seen the pictures. There are huge pits. can you rehabilitate them? He asked Datar why they were proposing to give these lands to tribals and poor people for farming. He asked whether it was possible to fill the pits and use them for agriculture. What study have you done for rehabilitation of these pits? Was there any scope for rehabilitation of the mines?

Datar referred to rules in place governing rehabilitation and attempted to read them. Justice Patnaik intervened. He said the ideas were all there, also the statutory rules, but all were given the go-by because of other considerations. Things would only improve if these things were implemented. If government wanted to implement rules, nothing could come in its way. Justice Kalifulla said that ecology was important, and maybe they should close the mines for good if this was the situation and find other ways of finding a living. (At this stage, one of the lawyers for the respondents was heard saying loudly that 80% of the population of Goa was dependent on mining!)

Justice Patnaik: This country is for everyone. It is for tribals, for farmers, for labourers, traders, govt servants, etc. But the country cannot be exploited to enrich a few. We must have inclusive growth. Everything we do must subserve the common good. Referring to the manner in which money power, elections, etc were destroying the rule of law, he told the courtroom in his sternest admonition ever in these proceedings: “This must stop! This must stop! This must stop!” We are here, he said, to uphold the Constitution and Article 21 (Right to Life). Only the rich can afford the best of counsel, he remarked.

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India

 

He admonished the govt for not thinking of people besides miners. He said the govt must protect the rights and interests of all. It must think of the common people, the tribals, etc. He once again asked Datar to address the court on how mining could be combined with the common good. He remarked that the lawyers in the Court were being responsible only to their clients. The Court however could only act to uphold the constitution. He said he was aware of Art 19 and that the Court also had to strike a balance. The Supreme Court, he said, cannot fail the next generation. If Supreme Court fails, what else will remain for them? Justice Patnaik said the petition was not an ordinary litigation anymore, a very serious matter.

Justice Kalifulla: It is difficult to shut our eyes. (The judges referred to the photographs annexed to the petition.) Court said even when the Court introduced sanity, the sanity was soon disturbed. There was a system failure. Everything had collapsed, despite mining policy, despite rules. Justice Kalifulla again said somethings could be reversed, but others could not. Scope for restoration of environment in mining was difficult. Justice Patnaik said we were talking of a cancer, which was terminal and for which there was no remedy. How can we revive ecology?

The Court was concerned that with nothing substantial in place, if mining was allowed to restart without an independent and strong regulator, the past would recur.

Datar made a proposal. He said that till an independent regulator was appointed, the Goa Lokayuktha could be asked to function as one and he could file reports on implementation periodically before the Supreme Court. The Court was not in favour, since it was unnecessarily burdening the Lokayuktha. The issue was this problem must be handled by a permanent system of regulation of which there was not much in evidence. You must have your own regulatory system in place, the Court said. The independent regulator must be a tough guy, not amenable to influence, empowered to shut down mines for any infraction. The problem is whether the Goa govt would allow such a person or accept such a person.

The Court was next addressed on encroachments found by the Justice Shah Commission. Datar produced a table to show that Justice Shah Commission had made several errors which had been found when the Govt carried out a fresh DGPS survey of the boundaries. He said if these errors were admitted, the Shah Commission figure of Rs.35,000 crores loot was bound to be an exaggeration. Court asked Dater: what was the PAC finding? Datar said it was Rs.3500 crores.

The Court was next shown a report from the Central Ground Water Authority which showed that whilst in Delhi and other parts of the country, groundwater was critical or overexploited, the situation as described in 11 talukas of Goa (based on 11 samples) was normal and quite safe. Court found it difficult to accept this when it had on file several reports of ground water depletion and pollution and said much depended on where the samples had been taken.

Datar next took up the Shah Commission report. Court asked him whether the Goa govt was taking action based on the Shah Commission’s findings or on its own findings. Datar indicated the latter. If so, the Court said, it would not have to consider objections to the Shah Commission report. In any case, the Court was not bound by what was said in the Shah Commission report. It had report of the PAC, which was a report of the Legislature and also the CEC report. The Court said it would not listen to individual complaints. If that were allowed, the petition would not be disposed of for six months! Even as far as the petition was concerned, the Court said it was looking at it as a source of information. If you disagreed with the Shah Commission’s findings, the Court asked Datar, why didn’t you challenge the findings yourself? Datar said the Commission of Inquiry could not have functioned without giving the government notice. That is a statutory requirement.

The Court finally advised the Goa govt counsel to put down in a document, its findings on Shah Commission, CEC and the writ petition.

Datar finally told the Court that the State Govt had the right to act, implying that the Supreme Court should leave the matter of implementation to the State Government. Please leave us alone to act by ourselves, he pleaded. We have just come to power.

On the issue of auction of mining leases in the context of the presidential reference in the 2G judgement, Datar told the Court that auction was not contemplated in the Act, the Presidential Reference in fact referred to the MMDR Act as an example of allocating natural sources through route other than auction. He said the scheme for allocating of mining leases was laid down in detailed in the MMDR Act and was in force for several years.

Datar concluded by saying the writ petition filed by Goa Foundation was “premature”. He said he would address the Court on intergenerational equity. Justice Nijjar expressed the view that the Constitution of India was essentially a document infused with principles of intergenerational equity. Justice Patnaik said he had just read an article which said that President Obama was struggling to return America to a welfare state, but we in India were moving towards a laissez faire state.

Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran addressed the Court on behalf of the ministry of mines and MOEF. He began by admitting to some actions that were indefensible. He also supported the position that the Presidential Reference did not mandate auction of natural resources like mineral ore. He commenced explaining the EIA process to the Court, but soon it was time for the Court to rise for the day.

Parasaran will address the Court tomorrow. If he finishes, the miners and intervenors will address the Court on 1 and 3 October. The petitioner may file rejoinder submissions and be heard on 8th October, which will be followed by one week of Court vacations.

Goa Mining Case Day 3

-Claude Alvares

Third day of the Goa mining case in the Supreme Court. Prashant was present, but AG Goa was not found in the Court room the entire day. Hearings were halted at 4 pm, and will be resumed next Tuesday. Court has indicated it will hear the matter till the end and pass judgement. Good news for all.

Goa Foundation Logo

Goa Foundation Logo

First thing the Court did in the morning was to pass an order transferring around 10-12 writ petitions filed by mining companies and lease holders in the Bombay High Court (Panaji bench) against the Justice Shah Commission of Inquiry Report to the present bench to be heard and disposed of with the Goa Foundation petition. The Bombay High Court was directed to produce the record of all the petitions in the Supreme Court in one week.

Advocate appearing for Goa Paryavaran Suraksha Samittee (GPSS) informed the Court his client had filed over one hundred claims against over 100 mining companies for damage done by their individual mines before the NGT. Some of the companies had filed appeals against the NGT order entertaining his petition there, and they were listed in the office report of WP No.435. He therefore asked to be heard during the proceedings as well. Court assented.

The hearings commenced around 11.30 am with ADN Rao explaining the various findings of the CEC report (you can download the main text of the CEC report from www.goafoundation.org). That took the matter till 4 pm. The Court will resume ADN Rao on Tuesday morning before it goes to the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Mines. Goa government will be heard last.

Breach of Sesa Goa mine site at Mulgao Photo Courtesy: Goa Foundation

Breach of Sesa Goa mine site at Mulgao
Photo Courtesy: Goa Foundation

Lawyer for the Ministry of Environment was present in the morning, but disappeared in the afternoon. Court was extremely annoyed. Asked for officers from both ministries to remain present from Tuesday onwards to answer questions. Ministry of Environment is acting like a cat on a hot tin roof, periodically doing the disappearing act.

Court came down heavily on destruction of bureaucracy. It said earlier the bureaucracy provided the steel frame for governance. Now officers were writing notes to favour decisions. The bureaucracy had been shattered and its backbone demolished. It was referring to the questionable decisions taken with the support of bureaucrats who should have advised their masters properly. It found several legal opinions drafted by Advocates General of Goa which actually legitimised illegal decisions or made illegal actions into legal ones.

Encroachment by V.M Salgaocar & I.Ltd of Vasco da Gama in Surla village

Encroachment by V.M Salgaocar & I.Ltd of Vasco da Gama in Surla village

As per the findings of the CEC report, 19 environment clearances were issued for mining in the Netravali wildlife sanctuary despite Supreme Court orders; another 23 were granted environment clearances in the 1 km safety zone from the boundaries of wildlife sanctuaries and another 120 had been given environment clearances in the 10 km zone without reference to the National Board of Wildlife despite the Supreme Court’s order dated 4.12.2006 in an earlier Goa Foundation petition No.460/2004. This may turn out to be a massacre. Goa may never be the same again.

Met Christopher Fonseca and Suhas Naik during lunch. Christopher said this bench would pass a judgement that would put right what had gone wrong in the mining industry in the State.

The judges were extremely concerned about the impact of mining around the wildlife sanctuaries and implementation of the provisions of the Wildlife Act, 1971. They asked for the penal provisions to be read, if persons were found damaging the wildlife habitats.

 Justice Patnaik Photo courtesy: nluo.ac.in

Justice Patnaik
Photo courtesy: nluo.ac.in

Now we rest till Tuesday next, but it is a pleasure to be in this courtroom. The presiding judge, Justice Patnaik, has a great sense of humour and keeps the people quite entertained and relaxed. Bye for now!

Goa Mining Case Day 2

-Claude Alvares

Second day of the mining case continued without break till 4.00 pm. Prashant Bhushan was still on his legs till 3 pm, when he concluded arguments, leaving the stage open for Adv. A.D.N Rao, amicus curiae for the Central Empowered Committee. He held till 4 pm. Matter will resume at 11.00 am tomorrow. If CEC finishes tomorrow, Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ministry of Mines will take time, before handing over to State of Goa. Atmaram Nadkarni was not in Court for the second day running: surprising. This is Goa’s most critical case, but their principal law officer is gone to Sabarimala. Is it because they feel that only propitiating god will save them at this juncture?

Adv. Prashant Bhushan Photo Credit: Yasbant Negi

Adv. Prashant Bhushan
Photo Credit: Yasbant Negi

Bhushan concluded his arguments by insisting that the SC judgements in the 2G scam and the Presidential Reference precluded any further renewals of leases of Goa’s mines. He said the leases had all to be terminated, evaluation of the environmental and social situation should be done by an independent group of persons, who would decide how much time the ore will be in the ground for the benefit of the coming generations. He insisted that at least 3 generations of Goans should have access to the ore, so the extraction should be spread over a minimum of 100 years. All benefits from the sale must go to them and not to a few companies.

The Court was told that it had granted a suspension of mining operations only after the operations had been stayed by both the State and Central Governments. Justice Patnaik wanted to know why then was the Court being blamed for the stay and what indeed was the need of hearing the petition at all at this stage? Mining companies then jumped into the fray to claim they had challenged the orders of the State Government and the Central Government staying the mining operations and challenging the suspension of their environment clearances. Many claimed they had challenged the Shah Commission Report as well. These petitions had been filed in the Bombay High Court at Panaji, and several transfer petitions had been filed to bring them to the Supreme Court.

Mine at Colamb Photo courtesy: Save Goa

Mine at Colamb
Photo courtesy: Save Goa

One proposal that even emerged was that the challenges to the Shah Commission Report, the state government’s order dated 10.9.2012 and the MOEF’s suspension order dated 14.9.2012, together with the Goa Foundation petition on buffer zones (460/2004) should also be brought to the same bench and heard, since they were all interconnected. If this happened, Justice Patnaik said, the Goa government would have to defend its order dated 10.9.2012 ordering temporary suspension, while the MOEF would also have to defend its order suspending all the ECs!

This dismayed the mining industry representatives: if that happened, the hearings might stretch into months, since there were so many petitions, some even challenging the CEC report, the Court would have to spend weeks and weeks on unravelling the mess. The Goa Foundation would have to be given copies of all the petitions and would then seek time to file responses. So instead of the present petition being heard and disposed of in two weeks for the benefit of all (which is what the Goa Foundation itself wanted), the companies have now ensured, without even wanting it, that there will be endless delay and no chance of the suspension of mining being lifted. This appears to be the natural consequence of filing too many petitions and having too many lawyers. I could of course be completely wrong and something else might emerge, so treat this as loud thinking, that’s all.

Of course, the court never decides anything in haste. It has said it will look at all this tomorrow morning when it assembles. What tomorrow brings, only God knows!

Today, significant portions of the PAC report itself were read in the Court by Prashant Bhushan. He also introduced the Court to the Gadgil Panel report, and read a good bit of the August 2013 report of the Standing Committee (Lok Sabha) Coal and Steel, which had recommended a complete ban on all iron exports from the country.

The Goa Foundation also presented a composite table showing how every mining lease in Goa was involved in either on or other violation or illegality, and some were involved in several illegalities.

The Goa Foundation calls upon the Union Minister (Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India), for the urgent suspension of mining leases in the State of Goa

On the 11th of September 2012, the Goa Foundation & other NGOs & Citizens of Goa met the Goa State Pollution Control Board and submitted a memorandum requesting for the closure of mining activities in the State of Goa, following which today, on the 12th of September 2012, they (the Goa Foundation & other NGOs & Citizens of Goa) have written a letter to Smt. Jayanti Nataranjan, Hon’ble Minister for Environment & Forests, Government of India requesting for the “Urgent suspension of Environment Clearances for mining leases in Goa” which read as follows:

Smt. Jayanti Nataranjan, Hon’ble Minister for Environment & Forests, Government of India.
Photo courtesy: PIB of India / PIB

We are submitting this memorandum to you in connection with the reports and findings of the Justice Shah Commission of Inquiry into illegal mining in Goa.

The State of Goa by an order dated 10th September, 2012, has “temporarily suspended” work on all working mining leases in the state of Goa.  This has been explicitly done in order to enable the state government to decide if and when it wishes to resume mining after mining lease owners produce the necessary papers.

We have deep apprehension that this may lead to resumption of work on these mining leases without the consent of the Ministry of Environment & Forests.

You have yourself written to the Chief Minister of Goa on February 8, 2012 that a “default ESZ of 10 kms width all around the National Parks and Sanctuaries of the State ” will be applicable  till a proper ESZ based on the proposals emanating from the State is notified.  By earlier letters, your ministry has written to the state government to ensure that no mining activities take place without National Board of Wildlife approval.

In order to ensure that the Supreme Court’s orders are respected and implemented, it is imperative that the Ministry of Environment and Forests take immediate steps to suspend all Environment Clearances granted to the mining companies in the State of Goa.  This will automatically ensure that mining activities will not resume unless and until it has express approval of the Ministry (in this case including wildlife clearance before mining is allowed to resume).

We reiterate that the leases are operating on the basis of Environment Clearances granted by your Ministry and therefore only the Ministry can decide whether the mining leases can resume mining or not.

In any event the Shah Commission of Inquiry has come to a finding that all the mining leases in Goa suffer from serious and incurable legal infirmities.  The Commission has opined that most of these leases had been renewed in 1987 without authority of law or in explicit violation of specific provisions of the MMDR Act 1957 and the MCR Rules 1960.

One of the issues that environmental NGOs like Goa Foundation has been agitating is that the Ministry of Environment had issues several Environment Clearances without examining the validity of the lease or the locus standi of the lease holders.  In view of those findings of the Shah Commission, most of those leases would not be able to procure environment clearance any longer since the Shah Commission has already established that they do not have valid leases in any case. This aspect too will have to be considered by your Ministry if and when it decides to revoke any suspension of its environment clearance.

We would like to remind you that the Environment Ministry itself has been indicted by the Shah Commission Report for not taking adequate action to implement the Orders of the Supreme Court dated 4.12.2006 in Writ Petition No. 460/2004 and the order dated 4.8.2006 in the Godavarman case where directions were issued to prohibit all activities in the “safety zone” of 1 km from the boundaries of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

In view of the above facts, we are making this written representation for immediate suspension of all environmental clearances issued by the ministry for mining leases to operate mines in the State of Goa.

**END**

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)

***Memorandum***

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.

***End***

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: xaviersjournalism.blogspot.in

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
Source: cj.ibnlive.in.com

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: goafoundation.org/

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
Source: minesandcommunities.org

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.