Goa: Fear of mines shutdown looms large

Last Updated: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 21:18

Panaji: A state of uncertainty looms large
in Goa`s mining belt as people fear closure of several mines,
which may spell doom for many dependent on this industry in
the state.

As per a rough estimate, there are at least two lakh
people who are dependent on the mining industry.

The mining belt, which runs across seven out of 12
talukas of the state, is heavily dependent on extraction
and transportation of ore to earn money.

A total 90-odd leases scattered over these talukas has
20,000 trucks plying between the mining sites and jetties
where the ore is dumped into smaller ships which carry it
forward to the harbour.

A detailed probe by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has
pointed out that almost 50 per cent of mining leases have
violated norms, which means the ore extracted from them is
`illegal`.

The worst fear is now being expressed that Justice MB
Shah Commission, which is investigating the llegal iron ore
scam, will recommend shutting down of these illegal mines,
unleashing a crisis on the people in this belt.

"There were only 5,000 trucks a decade back. But now
their number has gone up to 20,000," Prasanna Ghodge, promoter
of PVG Group, one of the biggest transporters for mining firm
Sesa Goa, said.

Ghodge, who has been in this business for the last 20
years, says people are not supporting illegal mining but many
of them do not know whether the ore they carry in their trucks
are legal or illegal.

"How are we supposed to know it? It’s for the government
to decide it. The trucks ply on the mines once they start. The
truck owner will not know whether the mine has exceeded its
permissible limit or not," he said.

"Imagine what will happen to the coastal belt if the
government stops tourists from arriving here. The same thing
will happen to the rural belt if mining is stopped," Vinayak
Gawas, Dharbandora Taluka Truck Owners Association member,
said.

Dharbandora, a newly notified taluka, is one of the
talukas having maximum density of mining leases.

Admitting that too much of iron ore extraction has spoilt
the industry, Govind Sawant, a truck owner and a local
politician, said there should be a ban on any further purchase
of trucks in the mining belt.

Each truck costs Rs 15 lakh. "These trucks are useless if
there is no mining. We can`t use them for any other activity,"
he said.

The people who are dependent on mining industry have now
decided to have a street protests in Panaji on Wednesday,
October 12, when Shah Commission will arrive in the state.

Sawant said they will be handing over a memorandum to
Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and leader of the Opposition
Manohar Parrikar seeking their intervention in protecting the
legal mining industry.

PTI



First Published: Monday, October 10, 2011 - 21:18

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