Panaji: Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat Monday steered himself clear of the controversies surrounding illegal mining activities in the coastal state claiming that he himself was a crusader against the unlawful activity.
"During my tenure as Mines Minister in last ten years, I have never supported illegal mining. I have not renewed a single mining lease or permitted new lease in my tenure," Kamat told media in an interview here.
The Chief Minister, who is facing allegations of shielding a multi-crore mining scam, said it was only after he informed the then Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh about irregularities in Environment Clearances (ECs) that the moratorium was issued on new leases and renewals.
"In February 2010, I had told the Union ministry that ECs were given despite objections raised by locals during the public hearings," he recalled.
Kamat said the situation in Goa is not as grave as Karnataka. "Things are being blown out of proportion in certain sections of the media. Goa government has been acting against illegalities in mining sector whenever they are brought to notice," he claimed.
Kamat said a few people were mining ore in their farms but the government was taking action against them. "We have cracked down on such illegal minings and also fined them crores of rupees," he said in an apparent reference to the recent case against NCP leader Jitendra Deshprabhu who was arrested for illegal mining at his property.
The Chief Minister said the state has been insisting for No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from the Mines Department, which shippers need to produce before exporting the ore.
"These are the steps to curb illegal trade and evasion of royalty... Both the ports - Mormugao Port Trust and Panaji port, are adhering to this norm," he added. Kamat said the decision on new leases or renewal would be taken only after the state has its mineral policy in place.
The Chief Minister said that in the meantime, all the mine owners have been asked not to touch the old ore dumps till they are registered with the department.
"We are trying to ascertain how many dumps are existing in the state and whether exports are made from these dumps or from fresh extraction," he said.
The Chief Minister said the state has no machinery in place to ascertain whether ore is a fresh extraction or ferried from the old dumps.
Goa has 90 mining leases which export around 54 million metric tonnes of ore, majority of which is iron ore.
The Central government-constituted Shah Commission is currently investigating the illegalities in the mining sector.
A rough estimate reveals that the mining illegalities are between Rs 1,200-10,000 crore.