GAME OVER for Goan mining companies?

AERIAL VIEW

In Goa, Mining provides massive profits to mine-owners but short-term employment to the locals. It destroys the village economy as well as social solidarity. And the environmental impact is colossal.
The mining barons loot the dense forests that line the State’s eastern boundaries.
The mining companies alone cannot be blamed for the mess; the governments and politicians have also raked in the moolah. Despite knowing the illegalities, they decide to turn a blind eye.
In the 1960s and 1970s, mining in Goa was largely in the hands of four families. But as the business spread, ownership became more diversified. What remained constant was the patronage given to miners by politicians across parties.

 

SURAJ BNANDREKAR
Editor, Goemkarponn

For decades now, a handful of mining companies have made a fortune for themselves with legal as well as illegal mining in the State, but that chapter seems to have been closed on May 4, 2022, when Chief Minister signed an order asking all the mining companies to hand over the leases. It’s the end of the game for the four families, especially whose traditional business has been mining.
The decision was necessitated to pave the way for the auction of leases as per the Supreme Court order, which had quashed mining renewals of 88 leases.
In Goa, Mining provides massive profits to mine-owners but short-term employment to the locals. It destroys the village economy as well as social solidarity. And the environmental impact is colossal.
The mining barons loot the dense forests that line the State’s eastern boundaries.
The mining companies alone cannot be blamed for the mess; the governments and politicians have also raked in the moolah. Despite knowing the illegalities, they decide to turn a blind eye.
In the 1960s and 1970s, mining in Goa was largely in the hands of four families. But as the business spread, ownership became more diversified. What remained constant was the patronage given to miners by politicians across parties.
They provided the leases and overlooked mining lords’ environmental and social transgressions so long as they funded elections (and often lined the pockets of individual politicians too).
State leaders were given active support by politicians at the Centre (again across parties), who ensured that environmental clearances were given without any due process. One committee set up by the ministry of environment and forests in Delhi cleared 150 projects in Goa in an hour.
The devastation was horrific. Entire hillsides had been gouged out, the waste dumped in streams and ponds. In this lush, monsoonal part of the world, where peasants had access to springs and streams to provide them all the water they wanted, mining had made unpolluted water so scarce that they had to import tankers. The social disruption was as grievous, with mining lords recruiting goondas to intimidate protesters and the administration playing divide-and-rule by offering trucking contracts to other villagers to provide them with some sops.
In 2010, after the horrors of illegal mining had been exposed by social activists, the government of Goa appointed the Justice MB Shah Commission. The Commission found that the mining mafia had committed large-scale violations of forest, wildlife and pollution legislation. It is estimated that the loss to the public exchequer owing to illegal mining was a staggering `35,000 crore. The report and the outcry it provoked compelled the government to suspend all mining in Goa in September 2012.
Now that the leases are being taken back, what next for the Goa mining industry? Will the local mining companies be able to compete with the likes of Adonis or Ambanis, or the mining arena would fall in their hands simply because of the kind of money they possess.
Whatever the result, respite for a few Goans would be that mining would start and provide an economic revival. The Goa Mining Corporation, through which the leases are auctioned, will get a landfall of revenue which should suffice to clear all the State’s debts. But there is a catch to that. As they say, nothing comes for free. If the Goa government gets the renewal, we will have to see what compromises the Govt makes with the bidders and how it would make sure Goa is not destroyed.

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