Goa Mining Case: SC Quashes Renewal Of 88 Mining Leases In Goa
As a set back to major mining companies in Goa, the Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the renewal of 88 mining leases in the state. According to the Supreme Court order, these mining companies have to wind up their operations by March 15. The court also said that the new lease would be issued only after obtaining the environmental clearance.
The bench headed by Justice Madan Lokur held that the government’s move to renew the mining lease for the companies was a violation of law, and asked the state government to grant new license through the bidding process.
“The second renewal of the mining leases granted by the state of Goa was unduly hasty, without taking all relevant material into consideration and ignoring available relevant material and therefore not in the interests of mineral development,” the bench said.
“However, they are directed to stop all mining operations with effect from March 16, 2018, until fresh mining leases (not fresh renewals or other renewals) are granted and fresh environmental clearances are granted,” the bench added.The court also asked to set up a special investigation team (SIT), comprising a chartered accountant to recover the amount from mining companies which acquired a renewed licence.
NGO Goa Foundation filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the court in 2015 through advocate Prashant Bhushan. The plea questioned the second renewal of mining leases in the state. Bhushan told the court that the renewal did not conform to the apex court’s line on optimal utilisation of natural resources. He also said that the government could go for auction instead of renewing them.
Bhushan pointed out that the mines ordinance issued on 12 January 2015 did not conceive a renewal process. The petition, reviewed by Livemint, alleged that the government and the mining companies teamed up to evade the ordinance and the apex court’s ruling of 21 April 2014.
Following a report submitted by MB Shah commision, the apex court had suspended all iron mining and transportation in Goa. In 2015, the state government had renewed 88 mining leases owned by the same companies who were accused of illegal mining. The renewal order was for 20 years.
Last year the SC bench had directed that all companies who were engaged in mining activities without having forest or environmental clearance should pay the public exchequer compensation equivalent to 100% value of the minerals extracted by them illegally.