Panaji: Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat
today 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 said 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 mining 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.