Panaji: Over 2,000 people who depend on mining in Goa on Thursday staged a protest march near Panaji, accusing the government of not taking up the issue of resuming work at the mines seriously.
The Convenor of the Goa Mining People’s Front, Puti Gaonkar, told the rally that the state government should file an affidavit in the apex court seeking amendments to the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Leases (Abolition of Mining Concessions and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act 1987 to make it apply prospectively.
This, he said, would automatically extend the lease period of Goa’s iron ore leases — which have elapsed since 2007 — till 2037.
“The situation has reached such a pass because the government has taken the issue of mining resumption lightly… We also demand that the Assistant Solicitor General, Atmaram Nadkarni, who represented the case in the Supreme Court, should be replaced with a senior counsel because he wants the mining leases auctioned and not renewed as we want,” Gaonkar aid, after submitting a memorandum to Goa Chief Secretary Parimal Rai.
The mining issue has been hanging fire in Goa, ever since the apex court banned extraction and transportation of iron ore from 88 mining leases from March 2018, while also directing the government to re-issue mining leases.
This is the second time in less than a decade that all mining in the state has come to a standstill.
A 2012 ban was earlier lifted by the apex court in 2014, but the court imposed fresh restrictions again in 2018 after it found that the BJP-led government had not followed a due procedure in the lease renewal process.
Before Goa was liberated by the Indian armed forces in 1961, mining leases in Goa were permanent concessions granted by the Portuguese colonists for exploration and exploitation.
Once India took control of the coastal state, the Goa Daman and Diu (Abolition of Concession and Declaration as Mining Leases) act, 1987 converted the same concessions into mining leases under the Mines and Minerals Development Act, 1954, making them valid for a fixed tenure of 20 years, which lapsed in 2007.
Though passed by Parliament in 1987, in the case of Goa, a late entrant into the Indian Union, the law was retrospectively brought into effect from 1961, the year Goa was liberated from the Portuguese.
Gaonkar said that the Front was now demanding that the same law be applied with prospective effect, which would stretch the tenure of the mining leases till 2037.