KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - The Indian government’s move to expedite the resumption of iron-ore mining in the western coastal province of Goa has come unstuck with the Supreme Court considering setting up fresh panels to look into various aspects of mining, including a cap on the volume of extraction.
According to the Supreme Court, two panels should be established: one to determine the environment’s carrying capacity for mining activities and the other to determine conservation of nonrenewable natural resources for future generations.
The court’s decision to undertake fresh studies effectively ends the federal and provincial governments’ hopes of resuming iron-ore mining in Goa within the next few months.
The Mines Ministry filed an affidavit before the court seeking resumption of mining in Goa. At the same time, the provincial government of Goa submitted a plea seeking extraction of 45-million tonnes of ore a year, and permission to transport 11-million tonnes of the minerals currently lying in dumps across the province.
The provincial government was keen for an early resumption of mining operations, as it was facing social and economic disruptions, with 200 000 workers laid off from the mines and over 800 000 contract workers out of work.
The court-appointed Central Empowered Committee has recommended that the stockpile of ore should be auctioned under court supervision.
The Supreme Court banned iron-ore mining in the southern Indian province of Karnataka in July 2011, and in Goa in October 2012, for illegal mining. While the court has sanctioned phased resumption of mining in Karnataka, the ban on mining in Goa continues.
According to a report from the M B Shah Commission to probe illegal mining, the estimated loss to the state exchequer was estimated at $4-billion.
The ban on mining imposed in the two provinces resulted in a steady decline in iron-ore exports from 2009/10 when the country exported 117-million tonnes, falling to 97.6-million tonnes in 2010/11, 61.75-million tonnes in 2011/12 and 18-million tonnes in 2012/13.
Goa accounted for 5.3% of the country’s total 28.52-billion tonnes of iron-ore resources.
In a related development, India’s Planning Commission was scheduled to hold a meeting on November 7, with representatives of various mining-related Ministries to address the issues plaguing the mining sector, including the ban on iron-ore mining and framing guidelines for approaching the courts on the issue before it.
According to government data on industrial production, mining output contracted 3.4% during April to August 2013, compared to a contraction of 1.8% during the corresponding months of 2012.