Goa NGO to challenge renewal of 88 illegal mining leases

Panaji, Sep 28 (IANS) The renewal of 88 iron ore mining leases by the Goa government in 2015 is illegal and a violation of a Supreme Court order which cancelled all leases in 2014, a green NGO has said.

In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed with the apex court, the NGO has also demanded a CBI probe into the lack of action by the state vigilance department into irregularities.

Goa Foundation, whose PIL eventually led to a ban on illegal mining industry in 2012, has also said the state BJP-led coalition government’s decision to renew mining leases and not auctioning them will cause a loss of Rs.80,000 crore to the state exchequer.

“The Goa government has illegally renewed 88 mining leases, after the leases were cancelled by the Supreme Court in 2014. Our prayer is to cancel the government’s lease renewal process and at the same time cancel the licences to operate granted by the Goa State Pollution Control Board,” Goa Foundation secretary Claude Alvares said.

Mining in Goa was stopped both by the state government as well as the central government in 2012 following a Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam which was unearthed by a judicial commission appointed by the union mines ministry, before the Supreme Court banned all mining activity in the same year following a PIL by the Goa Foundation represented by noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

All top mining companies were indicted in the illegal mining scam exposed by the Justice M.B. Shah Commission, which has also pointed out to a politician-bureaucrat-mining companies nexus.

The ban was eventually lifted in 2014, but the Supreme Court had ordered cancellation of all existing mining leases and issuance of fresh leases.

A subsequent High Court order, which the state government did not cancel, however allowed renewal of the mining leases.

Alvares claims that the PIL will also question the legality of the High Court order.

“If one uses the same formula used to calculate the losses in the coal block allotment scam, the Goa exchequer will lose Rs.80,000 crore due to renewal of mining leases till 2027 to 18 mining companies,” Alvares said.

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