Times of India | 3 days ago | 25-11-2022 | 11:01 am
PANAJI: In a major relief to the state government ahead of the auction of four mining blocks, the high court of Bombay at Goa on Thursday declined to grant interim relief to Karnataka-based mining company MSPL Ltd, which sought either a stalling of the auction or an alternative direction to provide basic and essential data of mining blocks before the auction. “Any grant of interim relief at this stage will affect the auction schedule. The entire process might be derailed. The petitioner has not explained why the voluminous information supplied is inadequate. The petitioner did not even bother to place the complete information already provided along with the notice inviting tender (NIT) on record. Based on truncated documents, this petition was instituted, circulated, and interim relief pressed,” a division bench of Justices M S Sonak and Bharat P Deshpande observed while declining to grant interim relief. The petition challenged clause 1.3 of the tender document and clause 11(a) of the bid document to the extent that it failed to disclose the basic and essential facts such as providing essential data for the previous five years. By way of interim relief, the petitioners sought either a stalling of the auction or an alternative direction to provide basic and essential data referred to in the petition’s prayer. Advocate for the petitioner Gopal Jain, said that while the petitioner sought basic and essential data, it had not been furnished. Jain submitted that the rules, the mandate of Article 14 and the principles of transparency require such information to be furnished so that the petitioner could take an effective part in the auction process. “By not providing this information, the auction process is goaded in favour of the existing leaseholders who would already have such information. Therefore, the impugned clauses violate Article 14 of the Constitution, and interim relief should be granted,” Jain said. Advocate general Devidas Pangam opposed the grant of any reliefs in the petition. “The erstwhile leaseholders had challenged their eviction from the lease areas and the division bench dismissed this petition on October 7, 2022. The special leave petition (SLP) against the said order was dismissed on November 21, 2022, and this petition has been instituted on the immediate next date. This petition is nothing but a proxy petition instituted by the erstwhile leaseholders in a bid to stall the auction process yet again,” Pangam said. “We have considered the rival contentions in the context of the prayer for interim relief. The last date for submission of the bids is November 28, 2022. The petition was filed only on November 22, 2022 with interim reliefs to stall the process. The grievance now raised relates to the NIT published on September 30, 2022, and the alleged lack of adequate information in the same. If the petitioners were serious about the information they now press for, they could have instituted this petition much earlier,” the high court observed. “The nexus between the dismissal of the petitions of the erstwhile leaseholders and the institution of the present petition on the following day will have to be examined. At this stage, no observations can be made on this submission of the advocate general. However, records show that this petition was instituted within 24 hours of the dismissal of the SLPs instituted by the erstwhile leaseholders who were also seeking to stall the auction process on different grounds,” high court added. The matter has now been posted for December 14.
PANAJI: Social welfare minister Subhash Phal Dessai said on Monday that the state would come up with a new dump handling policy to start legal mining. Phal Dessai said that even if 20 million tonnes of iron ore are exported, mining activities can run for two years. Phal Dessai said that the state government may abolish or give relaxation to truck owners regarding some taxes. Truck owners are demanding relief on three taxes, including road tax. Phal Dessai said that 75% of the trucks were involved in mining and the remaining in other activities. He said that there is no business for truck owners and that they require funds to repair their trucks. “Truck owners will be given relief,” Phal Dessai said, adding that the government would reduce taxes. He also said that the state has enforced a green tax for those trucks that have completed 15 years. He also said that truck owners have to pay Rs 18,000 as green tax. He also said that people in the mining belt will get business once mining restarts. The social welfare minister said that the iron ore found in Goa is low grade iron ore, and that they welcome the Union government’s decision to reduce export duty on this ore to zero. He also said that due to high export duty, there were no buyers, and that the movement of ore wasn’t happening. Now, its transportation will start again, he said. The minister said that CM Pramod Sawant chose to auction the mining leases without succumbing to pressure from anyone.
Panaji: In a major setback to Goa’s mining companies, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed their special leave petitions (SLPs) challenging the high court’s dismissal of their pleas against the state’s decision to ask them to vacate mining leases. “We are not inclined to entertain the SLP under Article 136 of the Constitution. The petitions are accordingly dismissed,” said a bench comprising CJI Dhananjay Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli.“I understand that the SLP stands dismissed. This reinforces the government option for auction,” said secretary, Goa mineral ore exporters association (GMOEA), Glen Kalavampara. The mining companies had approached the HC seeking extension of their lease validity till 2037. However, last month, the HC dismissed their petitions, clearing the way for the planned auction of mining blocks by the state. The mining companies had approached the HC seeking extension of their lease validity till 2037. However, last month, the HC dismissed their petitions, clearing the way for the planned auction of mining blocks by the state. Later, the mining companies approached the apex court challenging the high court order. This SLP was filed by companies that are not among the 88 whose second renewal of leases was quashed by the SC.In the SLP, the companies sought an “ad-interim ex-parte stay on the HC order”, and a direction to the state government “to maintain status quo” with regards to their mining leases. The companies sought a stay on the HC judgment stating that as a consequence, “the state government is likely to consider auctioning of the petitioners’ leases”.The SLP sought that the matter be remanded back to the HC to decide on the year from which Section 8 of the MMDR Act is applicable to Goa — 1961 or 1987.The HC, in its order, had referred to earlier SC and HC judgments on the validity of mining leases. A division bench comprising justices Sandeep Shinde and R N Laddha deemed it “appropriate not to re-examine the issue of extending benefit to the petitioners, referable to Section 8A of the MMDR Act”.The Union government had abolished concessions and converted them into leases in 1987 and, in the HC, these mining companies had sought a declaration that their lease period stands extended up to 2037, plus the shutdown period, and sought to quash the notice dated May 4, 2022.They had asserted that they were granted the original mining lease under the MMDR Act and Rules in November 1987, and it was the first full-fledged lease. They claimed that in terms of the provisions of sub-section (5) and (6) of Section 8 of the Amendment Act, 2015, they are entitled to treat the lease period as 50 years (from 1987 to 2037), and not from December 1961.
Margao: Owners of mining trucks from South Goa have demanded that the government roll back what they called exorbitant hike in green cess, insurance, GPS rentals and fines for no fitness certificate, until mining activities and ore transportation resumes in the state in a full-fledged manner.At a meeting held at Sanvordem on Sunday, the affected mining truck owners said that while chief minister Pramod Sawant has assured a delegation that met him recently of resolving the issue soon, they have served an ultimatum of 15 days for the government to act on the matter. “If no decision on the matter is coming forth from the government within the next 15 days, we will take appropriate steps and launch an agitation,” one of the speakers said at the meeting.The truck owners are particularly agitated over the steep hike in fines for trucks not possessing a valid fitness certificate. “The trucks are out of business. Usually we would obtain the fitness certificate before the commencement of the mining season every year. However, as there is no business for the last many years, most of the truck owners haven’t obtained the fitness certificates. But we are told that as per the new rules, the transport authorities would levy a fine of Rs 50 per day from the date the fitness certificate has expired. Now this is injustice on the truck owners. On the one hand, they have lost their livelihoods, and on the other, a hefty fine is levied on them, despite being out of business,” a truck owner explained the situation.They have also demanded that the hike in green cess and rentals for GPS equipment be rolled back forthwith. Iron ore mining and transportation operations came to a standstill in the state after the Supreme Court quashed 88 leases in February last year. The apex court had quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to 88 mining firms in Goa in 2015.
Panaji: In what could be termed as a game changer for the Goa mining industry, the Union government has reduced the export duty on iron ore below 58-grade from 50% to nil. The decision of the Centre, ahead of the auctioning of four mining blocks, may receive huge response from mining and steel companies to participate in the auction. The Union government in May this year had increased the export duty on iron ore. Most of the iron ore produced in Goa is low grade (below 58-grade), and most of it is exported. The Centre had also hiked export duty on ore above 58-grade to 50% from existing 30%. But it has also reduced it to 30%. Chief minister Pramod Sawand had written a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others to reduce export duty. “The notification issued would have a serious implication, where even if leases are granted by auction route would render them commercially unviable for operations or ensuring bidding only limited to steel producers by cutting down competition totally,” Sawant had said in the letter.“I thank the Union government led by PM Modi for considering our request for levying nil export duty on below 58 Fe iron ore. My gratitude to the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for the withdrawal of export duty that will give a boost to the mining sector and Goa's economy,” Sawant said after the duty was reduced.“I thank the Union home minister Amit Shah for his support in withdrawal of export duty. This will fetch higher revenues to Goa government while auctioning of mining leases. This will also propel export of low-grade iron ore from Goa giving relief to various segments in iron ore business and allied activities,” the chief minister said. Mining in Goa came to a halt in March 2018, after the Supreme Court quashed the second renewal of 88 mining leases. The state government has put up four mining blocks for auction, of which three are in the north and one is in the south, and over 24 companies have shown interest in participating in the auction. The four mineral blocks, put up for auction, were operational before mining came to a halt. Most of these leases cover vast areas. Hitherto, the mines in Sirigao and Mayem were operated by Chowgules, in Sirigao by Rajaram Bandekar (Sirigao) Mines Pvt Ltd and in Bicholim by Vedanta Ltd. As per the directorate of mines and geology records, the lease for the Kalay mine was earlier in the name of N S Narvekar. This is for the first time that the state government is auctioning leases to carry out mining activities in the state. The state government has revised the timeline for the auctioning process. Major steel and iron ore mining companies from outside Goa have shown interest in operating mines in the state.
Panaji: The CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) has identified 10 zones each in the Mandovi and Zuari rivers for the extraction of sand by the traditional (manual) method. It has also recommended constant monitoring of sand mining in these zones through drones and, if possible, night surveillance through night-vision drones to curb illegal activity. The zones identified in the Mandovi contain over 70,000 cubic meters of sand, while those identified in the Zuari contain 27,000 cubic meters.The directorate of mines and geology (DMG) will now approach the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) for environmental clearance (EC) to start sand extraction in both rivers after the completion of a public consultation environment impact assessment (EIA) report.Only after the clearance is granted will the directorate invite applications to commence sand extraction in both rivers.“Sand extraction has to be conducted by the traditional (manual) method only. No mechanised boats or machinery to be operated. The activity shall be restricted to the areas mentioned and the depth of extraction should not exceed three meters from the existing baseline profiles,” EIA reports stated.They also called for the implementation of the delineated environmental conservation and management plan once the lease areas are issued. The plan describes the team or committee that should be capable to address, execute and monitor all its aspects. The team or committee is also expected to appoint sub-teams, self-help groups (SHG), and village committees as per requirement.Sand mining has to be monitored as per The Mines Act, 1952, and The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, Mines Rules 1955, Mineral Concession Rule, 1960, and The Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 1988, the EIA reports said.The DMG is to ensure that all relevant contractors are made aware of environmental incidents and violations of leases granted, and their handling procedure. Complaints can be forwarded to the appointed committee or to the office of mamlatdar, deputy collector, or police.