Mining illegalities have recommenced

Mining in Goa came to a screeching halt in 2012 with the Shah Commission Report. One of the key findings was widespread illegalities. “It is pertinent to state here that such illegal act can’t happen without connivance of the politicians, bureaucrats and lessees. There is a complete collapse of the system.” It would seem that the industry hasn’t learnt.

A number of illegalities have already surfaced. For instance, the Department of Mines & Geology (DMG) has had to debar 2,000 trucks for overspeeding (out of 6,000) – this was detected only after 2 women died and a child injured, despite the real-time monitoring system being available. DMG then cancelled Vedanta’s iron ore import permit for transporting ore in flagrant violation of the permit, which required reporting at the Mollem checkpoint (entry into Goa), and then again at the Amona pig iron plant. DMG found Vedanta that not reported at either end, and simply unloaded the ore at Amona. DMG was also forced to assert the government’s ownership over mining dumps after it received complaints that people are cheating others by selling dumps they cannot own.

The CAG has in turn pulled up the DMG on at least three counts. First is for under-recovery of stamp duty on two out of three leases examined (88 leases were renewed) – Rs. 9.74 crores was collected, Rs. 14.75 crores should have been collected, loss of Rs. 4.50 crores, or around 30% loss. Second is for the absence of any method of verification of quantity or quality of ore for purposes of royalty. Third, another Rs. 17.73 crores was not collected on various other grounds.

During the hearings in the Supreme Court, the Goa Government said they would hire 300 staff to properly monitor mining. This was partly in response to the Shah Commission finding that mines had not been inspected for five years! However, responses in the legislative assembly shows that no person has been hired in the DMG since 2011. In fact, the CAG also pointed out that the DMG spent only Rs. 47.98 crores against its budget of Rs. 412.20 crores, the savings coming from non-filling of vacant posts and less receipts of claims.

Also, in the recent Assembly session, the Goa CM mysteriously refused to disclose the amount of mineral reserves of Goa, and the amount of iron ore exported from Goa. In a separate answer, he stated that the amount of royalty (15%), contribution to the Permanent Fund, (10%) and Contribution of the District Mineral Foundations (4.5%) were Rs. 102.49 crores, Rs. 27.99 crores and Rs. 30.31 crores. Since the rates are approximately in the ratio of 3:2:1, so should have been the collections. It is apparent that there is an under-recovery of the contribution to the Permanent Fund to the tune of approximately Rs. 38 crores. This is simply cheating the children of Goa, an incredibly reprehensible step.

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