Mining in Goa is mostly concentrated in four talukas namely, Bicholim in North Goa district and Salcete, Sanguem and Quepem in South Goa district. Some 400 mining leases had been granted in Goa till 2002-03, covering approximately 30,325 ha -- this works out to almost eight per cent of the total geographical of the state.
Number of mines is increasing every year; especially during last one year it has shown significant growth. Assuming that total mining project that came to expert committee since June 2007, gets cleared then another 8.4 per cent and 5.3 per cent geographical area of Sanguem Taluka and Quepem Taluka respectively will get converted into mine.
Since June 2007, 120 mining projects came up for clearance with ministry recommending clearance for overwhelming 48 per cent of the projects (see Graph 1: High rate of clearance). The remaining 52 per cent of the projects are still pending with ministry but the environment appraisal committee has not rejected any project. There were some projects which received specific attention such as Mahavir Mineral Bauxite Mine (lease area fell in CRZ) and Devapan Dongar Iron & Manganese mine (permission granted only for iron ore mine and not manganese ore mining because of its negative environmental impacts. However, still these projects were not rejected (refer: Annexure 1).
In very small number of cases were asked by the appraisal committee to prepare a new EIA based on comment made during public hearing and resubmit for clearance such as Casarman manganese ore mine, Molio Dongor manganese ore mine etc (refer: Annexure 1). Although such cases are extremely rare and very few. Even in this case the clearance has not been outrightly rejected but the proponent has been asked to resubmit fresh information. If the proponent is able to furnish these, the appraisal committee in all likely will give green signal to the project.
Large number of clearance also means that a large areas of fertile agricultural land getting diverted for mining. Since June 2007, the total numbers of mining projects, which have been submitted for clearance, cover a huge area of 9,404 ha. This is only a year’s data. No data is available as to how much land was diverted for mining between 2002-03 and 2006-07. Adding this 9,404 ha to the total land under mining in Goa (till 2002-03), it works out to be 10.5 per cent of the total area leased out for mining major minerals in the state.
The mining rich talukas of South Goa, Quepem, Sanguem and Canacona has 26.3 per cent, 64.2 per cent and 53.3 per cent forest cover respectively. The proposed 120 mining projects are in these forest rich talukas and many of the mine leases also fall in the forest area. Therefore, if projects are cleared, it will significantly alter the forest cover in these talukas. Other than the forest, the proposed projects also cover a lot of agricultural land and was one of the major cause of concern. According to a report, in Rivona panchayat in Sanguem Taluka, out of total village land of 1929 ha, 1510 ha is under 23 mining leases granted during colonial Portuguese regime that ended in 1961 but were continued by the free India state.
On an average 2.5 to 3 tonnes of mining waste has to be excavated to produce a tones of iron ore. Assuming, an average generation of 2.75 tonnes of waste to extract 1 tonnes of iron ore. In all the iron ore projects submitted for clearance since June 2007, on an average 55 million tones of waste will be generated every year. This is a huge quantity. The impact would be much more significant as most of the proposed mining leases are surrounded by agricultural field and since rainfall in the region is very high, overflow of mining waste will cause extensive damage to agricultural land and water bodies.
Interestingly, a part from one or two big project, rest all proposed projects are small to medium scale mines with annual production in the range of 0.1 to 0.3 million tones of iron ore per annum. The quality of EIA’s are very poor and a large number of them are copy-paste of each other. For example, chapter 1 of Joleracho Dongor iron ore mine’s EIA report and chapter 1 of Matheapan-E-Satarcarachem iron ore mine’s EIA report are same except the degree of latitude and longitude. Moreover, EIAs which came for analysis to Centre for Science and Environment does not have clear mine closure plan. If proper action is not taken by Ministry of Environment and Forest, than surely these small projects will eat up the existing forest and natural resources and after few years leave behind exhausted pit filled with water.