Parrikar dares Centre to find, shut illegal Goa ore mines



Panaji: The escalating war of words between Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) central government just got hotter.

Speaking at a Teachers Day function in the city Wednesday, Parrikar said that if central agencies find illegal mining in Goa, they should shut down the mines. He said the state government would provide police protection to shut down erring mines.

"If the IBM (Indian Bureau of Mines) wants to close down illegal mines, they should just do it. I will ensure that they get police protection," Parrikar said, a couple of weeks after the IBM, which functions under the aegis of the union ministry of mines and is responsible for the enforcement of regulations and norms in the mining sector, warned the Goa government against illegal harvesting of low grade mining dumps.

The mining dumps, along a 90-km belt stretching from northeast to southeast Goa, have been created over the decades. They were not processed earlier because of economic feasibility issues. A recent boom in iron ore demand and newer technologies have made harvesting of the low-grade ore rejects easier, according to the Goa government and the state's mining industry.

Parrikar's comments come a few days before union ministry for environment and forests (MoEF) Jayanthi Natarajan is to arrive in Goa.

Natarajan's ministry has also been criticised by Parrikar, who has claimed that dubious environment clearances (EC) granted by the MoEF are responsible for illegal mining in Goa, which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has, in the past, claimed was worth more than Rs.25,000 crore.

Speaking to the media earlier this week, Parrikar said: "The officials of the MoEF gave faulty environment clearances for mines without taking into account ground realities. They will be probed thoroughly."

According to a written reply submitted by Natarajan to the Rajya Sabha Tuesday, a team of MoEF officials is to visit Goa to see if low grade dumps of iron ore weighing approximately 700 million tonnes and worth several billion dollars were being illegally harvested by mining companies operating here.

IANS