Goa iron-ore miners body demands mining legislation amendment

29th November 2019 By: Ajoy K Das - Creamer Media Correspondent

KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – The apex body representing miners and dependants in Goa has urged the central government to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDRA) 2015, as it is seen as the only way to resume iron-ore mining in the region, closed since early last year.

The Goa Mining People’s Front has demanded that the Goa and central governments work towards amending the legislation as all other means to resume iron-ore mining operations have failed over the last year and hundreds of thousands of miners and their dependants were being deprived of their livelihood.

The organisation has called for an immediate meeting of the Group of Ministers set up by the central government to resolve the mining imbroglio.

The Goa government is estimated to lose about $700-million a year in revenue, following the closure of iron-ore mines in the state. According to the Federation of India Mineral Industries, the closure of mines has resulted in 100 000 direct job losses and impacted earnings of more than 300 000 mining industry dependants engaged in ancillary activities, such as truck operators, drivers, repair shop employees and petrol/diesel vendors.

Iron-ore mines were forced to shut down operations in March last year, following a directive of the Supreme Court. The court directive to close operations followed a verdict that held that the state government’s renewal of leases for 88 iron-ore mines was illegal, as the MMDRA stated that all allocations of natural resources and renewals of existing mining leases had to be done through auctions.

In view of the judgment of the apex court, neither the state, nor the central government has been able to find an administrative resolution to the logjam, while, at the same time, the central government did not find it viable to file an appeal petition before the apex court against its earlier order.

According to government data, Goa’s iron-ore production in 2009/10 was 38.14-million tons, 35.56-million tons in 2011/12, 33.64-million tons in 2012/13 and 10.90-million tons in 2013/14.

There had been no production of iron-ore in the following two financial years, as a temporary ban was imposed on the mines for violations of environmental laws. However, when operations resumed subsequently, mines in the state produced 1.80-million tons in 2016/17 and 8.93-million tons in the following fiscal.