Panaji: The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered the successful bidders of the recently-auctioned mining blocks in the state to obtain fresh environmental clearances (ECs).
A division bench comprising Justices Mahesh Sonak and Valmiki Menezes of the high court passed the order.
The ruling is likely to delay the resumption of the state’s iron ore mining operations that came to a standstill in 2018 after the Supreme Court quashed 88 mining leases.
In December last year, the Goa government had said that it completed the first phase of auction of mining blocks with four companies winning bids for the extraction of ore from different mineral rich stretches of the coastal state. The mining industry used to be one of the major revenue earners for the state.
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”We clarify that fresh ECs will have to be obtained even by the successful bidders…,” the high court said in its order. The Goa Foundation had submitted an intervention application over a petition filed by mining firm Sociedade de Fomento Industrial Pvt Ltd and one of its directors.
Claude Alvares, Director of Goa Foundation, was a respondent in the case along with the Centre and the state government. The petitioners (mining firm and director) had argued that being a successful bidder during the recent mining auction, they would not be required to obtain a fresh environment clearance for commencing mining operations for the mining block.
Talking to reporters in Panaji over the high court’s judgement, Alvares said the Goa Foundation filed the intervention application as soon as it came to know of the petition.
The Goa government had decided that mining on these blocks could commence immediately if they were not required to obtain fresh ECs, he said.
”But with the high court respectfully declining to support that decision, all mining blocks will now have to obtain fresh ECs. Thus, all prospects of mining resuming immediately have ended up in smoke…,” he said.
The Goa government’s misguided plans to auction the mining blocks without the need of successful bidders getting fresh ECs was quashed by the high court, he said.
Alvares said the state government tried to bypass the Supreme Court’s orders by claiming that it could extend the ECs given to mining lease holders as they were issued under the environment impact assessment (EIA) 2006 notification by which an EC is valid for 30 years.
The government argued that the amendment under 8A of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, 1957 enabled it to transfer the ECs issued under EIA Notification 2006 to the new mining blocks.
”But in its detailed judgment released on Wednesday, the court declined that assumption, thus setting back any effort of the state government to resume mining,” Alvares said.