Panaji: The Goa government’s state mining policy continues to favour China, a leading Goa-based green NGO has said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday. The letter also alleged that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was dragging his feet over auctioning of iron ore mining leases in order to restart the virtually non-functional industry.
The letter to the Prime Minister’s Office by Goa Foundation, whose petition related to illegal mining resulted in a ban on the mining industry in the state in 2012, has also said that the Sawant-led administration was dragging its feet over recovery of nearly Rs 3,431 crore of dues from various mining companies.
“The priority of the Sawant government today is to be seen in recent orders of the Director of Mines and Geology, permitting transport and export of iron ore stocks up to July 31, 2020, directly favouring former lease-holders and traders who have spot contracts with China,” the letter to the Prime Minister’s Office states.
“Normally, all mining activity halts before the monsoon by May 15 every year. Dr Sawant ought to be directed to stop the export of Goa’s ore to China forthwith as it is entirely inappropriate when seen within the circumstances facing the country today,” further states the letter signed by Director of the NGO Claude Alvares.
The letter comes amid heightened tension between India and China over territorial squabbles in Ladakh and calls from Modi for an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-Reliant India).
In the letter, Alvares has also said that the Chief Minister needs to be questioned for refusing to auction mining leases in Goa in order to restart the industry.
“The miners have no interest in assisting India’s development by ensuring use of Goa’s mineral ores in the country. All they are still keen on is continuing to sell these scarce ores to the Chinese market,” Alvares said.
The letter also states that at a time when the cash-strapped state government was borrowing heavily by issuing security bonds, the Chief Minister was reluctant to recover Rs 3431.31 crore in dues from mining companies, preferring to dip into the District Mineral Funds instead.
“Demands continue to be made by the Chief Minister to the Central Government for more and more funds even while the movement of the files dealing with the recovery of Rs 3431.31 crore has come to a complete standstill due to the influence exerted by the mining lobby on the Chief Minister,” the letter states.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing two petitions related to restarting of the mining industry in the state.
Mining in Goa was banned twice over the last decade, the last time in 2018, after the apex court identified lapses in the renewal processes related to 88 operational mining leases.