No further extraction by mining cos: State to HC

PANAJI: The state government on Wednesday stated before the high court of Bombay at Goa that companies had not “over exploited” iron ore resources in the six weeks following the February 7 stopping mining operations in the state from March 16.
In an affidavit filed before the court, chief secretary Dharmendra Sharma had stated that from February 7 till March 15, 2.2 million tonnes of minerals were extracted and that for a corresponding period in the previous year, 5.3 million tonnes of minerals were extracted.

The chief secretary said that based on this data it was clear that there was no collusion between the government and leaseholders to facilitate overexploitation of mineral resources in the said period.

The government submitted the affidavit in response to a PIL filed by Goa Foundation stating that vast quantities of iron ore had been extracted by mining companies for nearly six weeks in collusion with the government.

The petitioner also alleged that the government allowed mining companies to transport the ore after March 16 in violation of the Supreme Court order that cancelled second renewal of 88 mining leases in the state.

In response to this PIL, on March 28, in an interim order, the high court had stopped ore transportation.

This order was challenged by a few mining companies before the . On April 4, the apex court allowed the mining companies’ plea to export iron ore lying at the jetties, which was excavated prior to March 15. In the same order, the supreme court said that other issues raise by Goa Foundation would be decided by the high court. The matter came up for hearing before the HC on Wednesday and has been adjourned to April 24.

Regarding Goa Foundation’s claim that all ore transported from mining areas, including outside the lease areas, from March 16 belonged to the state government and is a public resource, the government in its affidavit stated that it had allowed transportation of royalty paid ore that was stored outside leasehold area before March 15.

The government has also submitted that over 7 million tonnes of ore, extracted from 2015-16, is still lying in lease areas.

The government said that a decision needs to be taken on the extracted ore on which royalty has not been paid and is lying within the leasehold area. This will be assessed in terms of the legal, financial and other policy implications by the government, the affidavit stated.

Refuting allegations that it facilitated advance payment of royalty on vast quantities of ore to enable leaseholders to claim ownership for its export after March 15 to bypass the Supreme Court Order, the chief secretary said, “The royalty becomes payable at the time of its dispatch outside the leasehold area and not on production.”

The case has been adjourned to April 24.

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