Times of India | 4 days ago | 06-08-2022 | 11:15 am
PANAJI: The Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) has called a meeting with the special investigation team (SIT) probing the Rs 35,000 crore Goa mining scam, to ascertain the technical manpower and equipment required to carry out the extensive survey of 59 mining leases. The survey is necessary to ascertain whether there was any manipulation in the extraction of iron ore. In a letter to the SIT, IBM said the bureau’s Nagpur headquarters wants to ascertain the total work required to conduct the survey. The SIT had written to the IBM asking it to conduct the detailed survey to ascertain whether there was actual iron ore extraction from them between 2007 and2012, and to find the approximate loss to the state exchequer. A senior official said that it has been nearly three months but there is no progress on the issue. The SIT’s letter to the IBM said that the survey it requested is “necessary for the purpose of investigation”. Police said that during the investigation, it came to light that 59 mining leases were operational between 2007 to 2012, and that the SIT wants to know whether there was really extraction from those leases, or some manipulation. The SIT completed a preliminary report of over 50% of the mining leases. In all, it is probing alleged violations in 126 mining leases. The report consists of verification of documents of mining leases, whom the leases were allotted to and who was operating them, and whether valid environment clearances were obtained. Based on this report, a final decision pertaining to the investigation will be taken by the SIT. The SIT had filed 16 first information reports (FIRs) in the illegal mining cases, of which eight have been chargesheeted, three have been closed, and three others transferred to the police stations concerned. Three other cases have been quashed by the court, a senior police officer said. Incidentally, not much progress has been made in the investigation, despite the SIT having probed the case for over six-and-a-half years now. On July 26, 2013, the mines department had filed a criminal complaint with the crime branch, seeking that criminal liability be fixed against those involved in the mining scam.
Panaji: Union minister for coal and mines Pralhad Joshi informed the Parliament that the Goa government has initiated the process to auction off mineral blocks in Goa. He also said that the BJP-led state government in Goa has assured the Centre that it will “safeguard the welfare” of the mining-affected people.Joshi provided the information in response to a question raised by Trinamool Congress MP Luizinho Faleiro. Faleiro had asked the Centre about the efforts to restart iron ore mining in Goa.“As per the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the state governments are responsible for grant of mineral concessions through a transparent e-auction process. The government of Goa has informed that the state will explore all possibilities to safeguard the welfare of the mining affected people,” said Joshi in a written reply.He also said that the Goa government has sanctioned Rs 110.2 crore as financial relief to barge owners, mining machinery owners and truck owners. Joshi also informed Faleiro that financial relief to 6,999 truck owners amounting to Rs 147.7 crore and assistance to 2,000 mining affected unemployed workers amounting to Rs 20.9 crore has been disbursed.Asked about the Shah Commission report, which had estimated Rs 35,000 crore of loss due to illegal mining, Joshi admitted that chartered accountants have estimated a more modest Rs 352.23 crore as the total dues owed by mining companies of which an amount of Rs 80.5 crore has been recovered.
Panaji: Staring at a long-term financial abyss, Mormugao Port Authority (MPA) has decided to try and shore up its revenue streams by monetising its prime assets. The port authorities have decided to aggressively pursue the Public Private Partnership (PPP) route, offering 30-year-long term leases to interested stakeholders. In this pursuit, everything from the Deepvihar primary school to MPA hospital are up for grabs.Ever since the closure of Goa’s iron ore mining industry, Mormugao port has been under severe financial stress. Despite being classified as a major port, MPA has seen a steady decline in cargo. The Covid-19 pandemic, closure of iron ore mining, curbs imposed on coal transportation and the suspension of international cruise operations has hurt MPA significantly, port officials said.“The idea is to outsource existing premises and create new facilities through the PPP mode at the port of Mormugao,” an official said.MPA has identified 10 assets in terms of office space and vacant land, which can be monetised through 30-year concession leases. The port authorities feel that the old administrative building at harbour and the old hospital at Baina are prime locations for a water-facing resort. The existing 100-bed hospital at Sada is being offered to a private firm to setup a hospital and a medical college.Officials have also identified six plots of under-utilised land in and around the port town, which could be used to setup a freight container complex or a commercial complex.MPA has also moved to appoint a transaction adviser and financial consultant who can guide the port through the outsourcing process. The Union ministry of shipping and ports has 20 empanelled transaction advisors who have been asked to provide detailed proposals for consultancy services.“The consultants will prepare a Techno-Economic Feasibility Report and the tender documents so that the PPP partner can be selected. The consultants will then help draft the concession agreement and guide the port till signing of the concession agreement,” a senior port official said.MPA has seven cargo-handling berths, two of which are dedicated coal berths and one dedicated iron ore berth. MPA gave JSW control over berth number 6, while berth 7 is with Adani Mormugao Port Terminal Pvt Ltd (AMPTPL).The port has already set in motion plans to redevelop berth 9, 10, 11 and three barge jetties through the public-private-partnership route. While redevelopment of berth 9 and three barge jetties is expected to cost Rs 700-1,000 crore, the project to handover maintenance, operation of berths 10 and 11 is valued at Rs 100-200 crore.
Keri: The locals of Dhabdhabo in Bicholim recently stumbled on a five- to six-metre-long tunnel triggering the interest of archaeological experts with some opining that it was excavated by the Pandavas and yet some others associating it with the 17th century Maratha ruler of the area.However, assistant archaeologist, directorate of archaeology, Varad Sabnis told TOI, “Prima facie, it appears that the tunnel might have been excavated for testing for the presence of mineral ore.”Corroborating Sabnis’ theory, a well-known historian, who preferred not to be named, told TOI that the tunnel indeed dates to the Portuguese era and showcases the ore testing methodology followed by European geologists.A senior mining engineer from Honda, Sattari, also on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the tunnel in Dhabdhabo was excavated for exploring mining interests in the area. Social activist from Sattari, Pissurlem Hanumant Parab, told TOI, “Before the introduction of mechanised mining activities, such tunnels were excavated in our village for testing for the presence of mineral ore.”
Porvorim: Opposition MLAs have demanded that henceforth, there should be longer sessions to discuss and debate on various issues in the assembly. Among the other demands voiced out during the passing of the budget were the scrapping of the three liner projects, restarting of mining, resolving the taxi issue by helping operators start their own app, uninterrupted power and water supply and that Goa should not be turned into a coal hub. Leader of opposition Michael Lobo said that the government is duty bound to provide uninterrupted water and power supply. He also said electricity infrastructure needs to be improved. On the issue of unemployment, he said the government should use the Investment Promotion Board to ensure employment for Goans. Further, he said that the chief minister should work overtime to restart mining activities in the state and that once restarted, it should not stop again as this will generate huge direct and indirect unemployment. Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardesai said that during the budget session he has been able to expose a “number of scams” including the restoration of Kala Academy, electricity pole advertising monopoly scam and the Goa BroadBand Network scam. He also accused the government of “passing a lot of bills at night” and being in ‘fast track’ mode on sale of all assets. Stating that people need affordable housing in Goa, Sardesai said that demand on housing was not discussed. Margao MLA Digambar Kamat said that the private forest issue is long-pending and that STs and OBCs are agitating because of reservation in assembly and higher education respectively. Kamat demanded that the government should come out with an ordinance to include sewerage in the health act. Cuncolim MLA Yuri Alemao said that the coastal zone management plan should be finalised and implemented. Alemao said that the state government should take austerity measures and avoid wasteful expenditure.
PORVORIM: Pramod Sawant said that once a new lease holder comes on board, the EC - in the case of the 88 mining leases - will be transferred to the new lease holder. House members repeatedly asked the CM to give a date by which mining will start. Sankalp Amonkar said that for the past ten years, the government has given 'tarikh pe tarikh' (date after date), and demanded that mining should be started at the earliest. Sawant also said that the government awaits export duty to be reverted to the old rate, to auction the remaining ore and to facilitate the export of low-grade iron ore. Sawant said that of the 88 leases, those that fall under a single EC will be taken as one block and auctioned accordingly. "Once auctioned, within 15 days, the EC will be transferred to the new lessee," Sawant said. SBI Capital Markets (SBICap), the entity appointed by the Goa government as transaction advisor, has auctioned leases of similar nature in other states, and successfully completed auctioning there, he said. Leases will be transferred as provided under the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, for two years. After two years, a lease holder will have to obtain a fresh EC, he said. Addressing Sardesai's concerns that small, local companies will be thrown out of the business with the likelihood of big players entering the market after auction, Sawant said that there is a provision for area restriction for mining leases under the MMDR Act. "Not more than 10km can be leased out to a single lessee for mining. There will be scope for small mining companies from Goa," Sawant said. Sardesai said that with the SBICap gaining prominence, the mining corporation exists only on paper. "The mining corporation is in existence," Sawant responded. "We are exploring if the corporation can take up other activities including participation in the auctioning." The CM reiterated that locals will be given preference by new leaseholders when it comes to recruitment. Cuncolim MLA Yuri Alemao also sought to know the status of recovery of the Rs 35,000 crore loss as reported by the justice M B Shah commission. "Acting on reports of chartered accountants, the CAG and special investigation team (SIT) on mining, the state has recovered Rs 80 crore," Sawant said.