Seven months have gone by since the Apex Court brought the curtains down on private mining in Goa. There is still no action from the government on reserving the state for mining by a Goa Mineral Development Corporation under Section 17A (2) of the MMDR Act. If this option is preferred by the Goa government, there is no need of auctions and therefore no prospect of any companies from outside the state taking over the mining industry. Mining activity (not extraction) can re-start immediately as there are more than 10 million tonnes of ore already excavated and lying within leases and outside leases, which according to the Goa Foundation, belong to the state government.
If auction route is contemplated, mining will take several years for re-start. The process will not be in the best interest of the people of the state. This is still the considered stand of the Goa Foundation.
However, while the state is dilly-dallying because of its continuing close links with the mining companies and lease holders, the mining dependent employees and workers are being punished for no fault of theirs. This press note highlights why the Goa government is actively refusing to help them out in their moment of distress.
The Supreme Court, in its judgment on 7th Feb 2018, noted that a sum of Rs.3,000 crores were due to the government from the mining lease-holders. It observed:
We were informed by the learned Additional Solicitor General that show cause notices have now been issued to some mining lease holders demanding huge amounts – some running into hundreds of crores of rupees towards value of ore extracted in excess of the environmental clearance. We were handed over some sample show cause notices (about 12) issued in September and October 2017 and the figures are quite staggering – the demand raised being about Rs. 1500 crores! Similarly, from the Summary of Mining Audit Report submitted by the auditors (and handed over to us by the learned Additional Solicitor General – for the period July 2016 to December 2016) the amount demanded (including interest) by the State of Goa from the mining lease holders through show cause notices issued is about Rs. 1500 crores! And without making any serious attempt to recover such huge amounts, the State of Goa has granted second renewal of mining leases and the MoEF played ball by lifting the abeyance order in respect of the environment clearances. The inferences that can be drawn are quite obvious.
It further directed that:
The State of Goa will take all necessary steps to expedite recovery of the amounts said to be due from the mining lease holders pursuant to the show cause notices issued to them and pursuant to other reports available with the State of Goa including the report of Special Investigation Team and the team of Chartered Accountants.
We have received under RTI Act a list of show cause notices issued by the government to former lease-holders which we now want to share with the media and the public, especially the mining-dependent. These show cause notices were issued on the basis of reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Committee of Chartered Accountants appointed by the Goa Government itself. The Supreme Court has directed the state government to expedite recovery.
Item Rs. Crores
Show cause notices issued Rs. 3,431 crores
Receipts from mining for 2015-18 Rs. 1,488 crores
Benefits to mining dependents <Rs. 400 crores
The total amount recoverable, therefore, is in excess of Rs. 3,000 crores. As far as we are aware, not a single rupee has been recovered so far. (In contrast, Odisha, under the BJD government, had issued show cause notices of around Rs. 17,500 crores, and recovered over Rs. 13,500 crores.)
If the amounts under the show cause notices are recovered, then the mining dependents need not be on perpetual dharna, begging for help.
The amounts recoverable are categorized below:
The largest amount due is from Vedanta Limited: Rs. 1,647.41 crores.
We demand that the Govt obey the SC order and expedite recovery of these large amounts. If not, the assets, accounts and buildings of these lease-holders need to be taken over by the state. The money thus recovered should be used to pay the dues of all the mining dependent in the state. The mining dependent cannot be made to suffer like this.
The Goa Foundation states that when the government wants, it goes out of its way to enforce its will. As media has reported, the state government has acquired land from Subhash Shirodkar for Rs.70 crores when there are no plans to use this land or do anything with it.
In the present case, the government of Goa is simply not willing to remove itself from acting the influence of the mining lobbies in the State. Despite Rs.3,431 crores due from the reports of two agencies, it is unable to help the mining dependent. Despite having Rs.180 crores in the Mineral Foundations, it is unable to help the mining affected. All it continues to harp on is amend the law and hand the leases back to the same mining companies.
The Goa Foundation is committed to recovery of these huge amounts prior to any resumption of mining activity.
(Claude Alvares)
Encl: RTI information about CAG and CA