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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**

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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***