Bicholim Mineral Block-Block 1, which has an area of 478.5206 hectares, is spread across the villages of Bicholim, Bordem, Lamgao, Mulgoa, Mayem and Sirigao in North Goa’s Bicholim Taluka.
PANAJI: The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has deferred its decision on a proposal to grant environmental clearance to M/S Vedanta Limited for the resumption of iron ore mining at Bicholim mineral block in Goa.
The Indian Express reported that in a recent meeting, the EAC for environmental appraisal of non-coal mining projects directed the project proponent to submit a letter from the Goa government’s Directorate of Mines and Geology, clarifying “whether any illegal mining within the mine lease area has been carried out or not and whether the same has been carried out by M/s Vedanta Limited or not”.
Bicholim Mineral Block-Block 1, which has an area of 478.5206 hectares, is spread across the villages of Bicholim, Bordem, Lamgao, Mulgoa, Mayem and Sirigao in North Goa’s Bicholim Taluka. It has a proposed production capacity of 3 million tonnes per annum (MPTA). Vedanta was the successful bidder for the first block of iron ore leases auctioned in December 2022.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had said in the Monsoon Session of the legislative Assembly that the iron ore mining operations, which had been stopped since 2018 in the state, would start by November 2023.
According to the minutes of the 20th EAC meeting held on September 21-22, the EAC said that there was no clarity regarding the involvement of forest land within the mine lease area as contradictory information was given by the project proponent. The EAC observed that since the mine lease area shared a common boundary with Mayem Forest, the project proponent needed to submit a letter from the state forest department regarding the involvement of forest land in the mine lease area.
“The EAC was of the view that the pollution potential will be more in handling of waste. The EAC is not convinced with the plan for backfilling and with the design of settling ponds as the annual rainfall is projected as 3500 mm/year,” the committee observed. The EAC further opined that the project proponent needs to revisit the plan for backfilling and clearly indicate the void area and the capacity required for backfilling.
Observing that the mines had not been in operation in Goa since 2018 and that the instant proposal was the first case for grant of environmental clearance under auction after five years, the EAC noted that there is a need to ascertain the present scenario and ground reality with regards to the handling of waste; settling ponds; the location of waste dumps with respect to habitation, schools and river; other surface features such as forest, temples, caves and fort; mineral transportation route; and traffic congestion.
“The EAC observed that the instant mine is located in dense vegetation area…the mine lease area is located close to the proximity of habitations, school, forest (Mayem common boundary), river, temples, caves and fort. The EAC also observed that the project proponent has not properly worked out the traffic load. Many litigations were received against the public hearing/project…,” the EAC said in its observations and recommendations.
The EAC noted that a public hearing for the grant of environmental clearance was held in Bicholim on August 11. In the hearing, 4,708 written objections were submitted against the project, while 5,183 letters were received in support of the project. The committee asked the project proponent to submit a video recording of the public meeting.
The EAC said that a site visit needs to be conducted by a sub-committee comprising EAC members and officers from the Union ministry.
A spokesperson for Vedanta Sesa Goa said the clarifications sought by the EAC were part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process. “Vedanta Sesa Goa is committed to adherence to regulations and to resumption of mining in Goa in a responsible and transparent manner,” the spokesperson said.