Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) has issued show cause notices to 40 mining companies in the state for illegal mining. The notice was issued on the basis of a complaint filed by Goa Foundation, an environmental action group in Goa. The companies are accused of being involved in extracting ore from the mines beyond what was permitted as per the environmental clearance issued by Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The notices, issued on April 6, ask these companies to appear before the GSPCB with relevant explanation for their activities and relevant documentation of mining activities. However the GSPCB did not comment on any measures that might be taken against the mining companies if violation was proven.
According to Claude Alvares, the Director of Goa Foundation, ‘it was a petition for the authorities to take serious measures against such mining activities in Goa that just does not violate the Mines and Minerals Act, but also the Environmental Protection Act, and the Water Act”. He added that “if proven guilty the mining leases of these companies are likely to be terminated”. Goa Foundation evaluated mining statistics in the state over 4 years (2006-2010), provided by the Mines Department to the Goa Assembly. The data were assessed against the capacity granted through environmental clearances to the mining companies.
Illegal mining has been an issue of concern in the state for a long time in various capacities. As argued by Ramesh Gauns, an environmental and social activist from Goa, “Besides extracting ore beyond permissible limits, several companies also carry on mining activities illegally beyond their lease period.”
The issue has come strictly under the radar following the intervention of officials of Shah Commission, an inquiry commission appointed by the central government to probe the unlawful mining in the country headed by Justice M B Shah. The Commission came to Goa last September to investigate illegal mining activities in the state.