Green nod to 93 Goa mines put on hold
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Less than a week after the Justice M B Shah Commission submitted its report on Goa's illegal mining of iron ore and manganese indicating that mining leases got green clearances based on wrong facts, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Wednesday suspended the environmental clearances to 93 mines in the state and asked the mine owners to submit proper documents.
But at the same time, Natarajan sought to clear her ministry's name as the report puts part of the blame of illegal mines on environmental nods received from the Union ministry. "The Environment Ministry was never heard by the Shah Commission, so we never got a chance to present our case," she said.
The Commission report said that in Goa about 16 lessees were operating a group of mines as a single unit without having approval under Rule 38 of the MCR, 1960. "Indian Bureau of Mines and MoEF have given approvals under the respective regulations in violation of Rule 38. It is, therefore, recommended to stop all mining activities including transportation of ore in such leases and action should be initiated against the officers responsible for approval under MCR, 1960 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and lessees," the report said.
The Commission recommended that the MoEF should refer all mining-related permissions within a 10-km radius of national parks/ sanctuaries to the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) and to initiate action against officials and concerned ministers who gave approvals without NBWL clearance.
Natarajan said the environmental clearances were given on the wrong facts submitted by the state government, but officials did not verify them properly. "I will go into every aspect of the clearances and if any official is found guilty, action will be taken," she said.
Sources in the Environment Ministry said the directions to them was to scrutinise the documents of the Goa mines case by case with the same rigour associated with fresh applications for mining leases. Based on the merits of the case, lease owners could be asked to seek fresh Terms of Reference and submit a new environmental impact assessment report all over again, officials said.
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