Oppn questions whether it was Rs 35k loss or only Rs 350 cr
CM Sawant says not in a position to quantify figures now
PORVORIM: Chief Minister Pramod Sawant today told House that the government is not in a position, at this point, to quantify the exact figure of revenue loss to the State due to illegal iron ore mining.
He also said that the government has so far recovered Rs 80cr while another Rs 271cr is due to be recovered and for which notices have been issued to 42 mining companies.
The Chief Minister’s indirect submission that a total of around Rs 350 cr are set to be recovered from the mining firms, raised questions over the Rs 35,000cr scam asserted by the government earlier.
The opposition grilled the Chief Minister on the figures and demanded to come out clear on the exact loss.
“Not possible to quantify the exact figure at this point,” Sawant added.
Congress Quepem MLA Altone D’Costa questioned the Chief Minister to come clear on the exact loss to the exchequer due to illegal mining.
“CM should tell the house whether it’s Rs 35,000 or Rs 350 cr; why is the CM not telling us clearly,” said D’Costa.
Meanwhile, stating that the government will ensure sustainable mining activities in the interest of the State and its dependent, Sawant assured that the annual 20 million tons ore extraction cap imposed by the Supreme Court would be equally distributed among the e-auctioned mining blocks.
Sawant also defended the decision to allow the revenue-defaulting mining companies to participate in the e-auction process stating that the move was in the interest of the mining dependents.
The opposition benches today cornered the state government on the auction of mineral blocks alleging that the process was not transparent and questioning the intention behind allowing those companies, who were named in various reports for causing loss to the state exchequer.
The opposition also sought to know whether the local people will get employment and whether their machinery including trucks would be deployed.
Responding to a series of queries, Sawant said that government will ensure that a 20 million ton cap on annual extraction is equally distributed among all the mineral blocks.
“We are focusing on ensuring sustainable mining in the interest of the State and mining dependents. The old companies were allowed to participate since they have an age-old relation with the employees and locals. The decision was in the people’s interest,” he said.
“We have directed the successful bidders to see that the locals get the preference in employment,” he said.
The Chief Minister said that of the total nine auctioned blocks, one company has to obtain fresh EC from MoEF&CC while others have to get EC from State Environment Impact Assessment Authority.
Concerns voiced by Quepem MLA Altone D’Costa, who questioned the government’s commitment to the rules and conditions established in the Mineral (Auction) Rules of 2015, were at the centre of the discussion.
D’Costa voiced concerns about defaulters being permitted to re-enter the bidding process without satisfying recovery requirements and asked for clarification on how the Reserves of each Mining Block are calculated.
Notably, the people of Shirgao and Mulgao also voiced concerns about the New Mining Blocks’ effects and encouraged the government to take action to protect the rights of the nearby villagers.
Further addressing the issue, Leader of the Opposition (LoP) Yuri Alemao questioned the government’s allocation of mining blocks and claimed that adequate research had not been done prior to the decision being made.
Alemao emphasized the deceptiveness of the quantitative quantity that the government presented, which he claimed had resulted in significant financial losses for the state.
The LoP also drew attention to the fact that some businesses were given bid privileges while owing the state a sizable sum of money, which raised concerns about the justification for such actions. Alemao stressed that these businesses were in fact State defaulters.
He admitted that the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) work on open recovery cases is nearing completion. CM Sawant further stated that the Supreme Court has governed the current mining environment, allowing a 20 million tonnes yearly mining quota.
He added that the average grade of 55 Fe and the quantity of ore extracted would be used to compute royalties.