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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.