The four-member National Green Tribunal headed by Justice VR Kingaonkar barred the Ministry Environment and Forests (MoEF) from granting any environment clearance to Goa’s iron ore mines without its approval, even as it ordered stoppage of all mining at mines whose initial clearance of five years had expired.
It may be recalled that GoaChronicle.com in its expose ‘PM’s role in Goa Mining Scam’ stated that during the tenure of the Prime Minister of India holding the portfolio of the MoEF, 17 environmental clearances were given to 17 mines in the 10 kms buffer-zone around Goa’s wildlife and national parks, even though this was restricted by the Supreme Court.
But the Tribunal’s order has no immediate effect as all mining operations in Goa are already stayed by the Supreme Court since October on a petition filed by Goa Foundation.
“In our opinion, it is desirable to pass an interim order, under the circumstances, directing the respondents to stop the mining activities in respect of the mines/units of which the initial period of five years lease has expired and there is no further extension thereof.
The respondents are therefore directed that no extension of such leases may be granted henceforth without approval of this Tribunal,” the NGT interim order, passed on Friday, read. It fixed the next hearing on March 12.
The order is applicable to 56 mines, which had obtained ECs under EIA notification 1994, according to which the clearances shall be valid for a period of five years from the commencement of construction or operation of the project. The ECs to these mines were approved between 2005 and 2006.
The Tribunal will, however, come into the picture if the Supreme Court relaxes the ban as the Environment Ministry would not be able to grant permission for mining without its permission. Three other members of the Tribunal were PS Rao, Dr PC Mishra and Bikram Singh Sajwan.
NGT has passed the interim order in an application filed by Shankar Jog, an environmental activist who challenged the operation of iron ore mines on the grounds that the ECs, granted in 2005, had expired by 2010 but the mines were still operational.