The Goa government’s proposed policy to auction iron ore dumps will result in environmental and social havoc, environmental activists have said. The Parrikar-led government has decided to amend the Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2012, to enable the sale of iron ore dumps, which are usually of low grade and lying on government-owned lands.
Goa has approximately 750 million metric tonnes of ore in the form of rejects scattered across the state. The ore, which had no buyers, is now fetching a good price since 2005 as there is big demand from China.These rejects are usually used to blend with the high grade ore.
Goa government has imposed a ban on handling these dumps since September 2011 in a bid to control illegal ore extraction. State mines and geology department has already begun an exercise to identify the quantum of dumps, which are initially estimated to have been storing 750 MT of ore. Chief minister Manohar Parrikar has stated that owners of dumps lying on government property, would be fined exorbitantly before the owners lift the ore. The revised policy will also allow mine owners to handle the dumps existing in their mining leases, after paying a much higher price.
With a policy being drafted by the state government for handling iron ore dumps, the ministry of mines has directed the Goa government on July 2, 2012 that since the dumps are a result of mining operations and since dump handling involves impact on environment, appropriate environmental clearance and other clearances, should be a pre-requisite. Environmentalist Ramesh Gauns said, “Allowing auctioning of mining dumps would result in creating environmental as well as social problems. Government has no concrete data regarding mining dumps and no monitoring is done in the matter. It will foster corruption on a massive scale and will also be responsible for intensifying air and water pollution.” He further added, “When government allowed lifting of mineral ore from dumps of mine TC No 71/53 and TC No 108/53, I filed the complaint with Goa State Pollution Control Board to restrain the company.”
Prasanna Acharya, the director of mines and geology said, “We are collecting information about mining dumps in Goa. Presently, it is difficult to provide exact details regarding these dumps.” Anil Subramaniam, under secretary of ministry of mines, in his letter to Goa government said, “Rule 45 of the Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 1988, provides for compulsory registration of all mining lease holders, traders, stockists, exporters and end-users and reporting on monthly and annual basis of all the mineral transaction to the Indian bureau of mines and the state government. Considering this mandatory requirement, no dump removal should be permitted unless these activities are captured and are in compliance with Rule 45 of the MCDR, 1988.”
The deputy regional controller of mines of Indian bureau of mines, Margao said, “Our office has no details regarding mining dumps which are situated inside the operational mines and non-working mines or which are there in private as well as government lands.”