I am not going to jump to any conclusion on the reasons behind which the Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar stated in the House of the Assembly ‘That there in no illegal mining in Goa but illegal extraction of ore.’
However, it has certainly surprised and disappointed me, because I thought he would have approached the issue of regulating mining by first accepting the irregularities in the first place, which were topics of discussion we’ve had on numerous occasions when we shared notes on the illegal mining in Goa.
Quite frankly within the mining sector itself the definition of illegality is not defined and if it is defined in the laws that govern the mining sector then it is never implemented by the authorities at the state-level and at the Centre; because the amount of profitability that exists in the sector on account of the demand for minerals especially iron-ore from China, will cause any businessman, bureaucrat and politician to find the loopholes in the laws or refrain from framing right laws and taking appropriate steps to stop illegal mining. Therefore, if today Parrikar chooses to flip-flop on his stance on illegal mining and try to give the House a lecture on the difference between illegal mines and illegal extraction of ore, then, in the interest of politics, business and people of Goa, many from the business and political fraternity would say that he is doing the right thing of keeping the mining lobby content and still appearing to regulate the mining sector. However, environmentalists, villagers affected by excessive mining and even the UK government will not be too happy with this stance of the Chief Minister, because they expected at least him to go after the illegal mining due to its serious impact on the environment and health of the villagers.
The UK government stance on this issue though, I am not too concerned about because they need to mind their own business and not meddle in affairs of our country.
When GoaChronicle.com had exposed some of the violations and illegalities in the mining sector details of which even formed material for the Justice MB Shah Commission’s Report, it was clear in most cases that mining companies extracted more than Environmental Clearance Quantity capping and a considerable number of the mining companies did not have their Environmental Clearances in place. This to me can termed whatever you want to term it – violations or illegal extractions; and at the most the mining companies or contractors could be fined for these violations but according to Parrikar these acts do not amount to illegal mining. But what about those miners that have taken advantage of the resources in the state, mined without any permissions whatsoever and put it in vessels at our different ports especially Panjim port and shipped the ore out of the state and out of the country, without even the customs being aware in most cases. Or for that matter, the fact as we had exposed in the ‘Estimates Committee Report’ wherein mining companies personnel were actually filing out the Challans and IT forms for the Directorate of Mines without the government department officers checking or verifying the actual data, because in truth, the former Minister for Mines for close to twelve years ran the most economic sector of the state with merely four top officers and about 35-odd junior staffs, clearly indicating that actual intent was to not show the real extent of the mining business.
Which is why even the royalty collected per ton is minuscule compared to the extent of the business done, its economic value coupled with the environmental degradation.
In some cases, illegal mining was going on in the forest areas of the state, in fact Parrikar had grilled the then Congress Forest Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues aggressively on this.
The Centre appears to be happy getting their bags from the mining lobby for their party or personal fund, so mere taxation here and there without taxing the actual extent of the mining business, seemed to be the most lucrative option. And as we had exposed in yet another ‘Mining Expose – Political Donations by Mining Firms’ that over the years, BJP, Congress and other political parties took political donations from one of the largest mining firms in the world, with large stake in the mining business in Goa, hereby indicating that other mining companies would have also patronized them.
The state too found this route to be the most lucrative and mining companies (old and new) knew that they could ride the demand wave and so they ensured they supplied at all costs greasing the palms wherever possible because the profits were and are still very high.
I know of case (one which we are still investigating) a large mining company in Goa, in its records shows that it has sold the ore to ABC company in Singapore for Rs 7000 per ton (for example). And its pays the necessary taxes and royalty based on that amount. The ABC company then mid-stream sells the same ore at Rs 15000 per ton to XYZ company based in China. Normally, you would say nothing wrong in this. But here is the interesting part – the ABC company in Singapore is actually owned by the same large mining company in Goa; and this camouflage is done purely for business and economic purposes of the mining company.
The mining sector and the laws framed to regulate the sector still have a lot of loopholes. The Centre believes that through its new Mining Policy it will address the need of the villagers in mining areas by offering them 26 per cent of profitability, but the real problem will eventually come when the control over the environmental degradation will go unchecked. While this happens, mining companies in their Corporate Social Responsibility exercises plant trees, fund schools all in the name of development and create employment.
So the real issue is finding the balance between economy growth and environmental sensitivity, because it does not take time for GREED to overcome NEED.
Here is an interesting point to ponder about Kamat previously and now Parrikar keep talking about a state-centric ‘Mining Policy’. I find this bit strange and I am quite certain that the mining policy will never see the light of day in the near future, because a ‘Mine’ is a Central Resource and the sector is governed by Central laws and guidelines as stipulated in their Mining Policy, so a state cannot have a ‘Mining Policy’.
Mr Parrikar, GoaChronicle.com had leaked the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Report of which you were the Chairman, when the Congress-government refused to table the report that indicated various violations and what you called illegal mining at that time, prior to the elections. So what has changed now.
I am running the PAC Report once again for the people of Goa and India who missed it…
If BJP had its Karnataka, Congress had its Goa. But the real truth is whichever be the government, the mining lobby always make them an offer that they cannot refuse.