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Goa in no hurry to allow mining again, sets up commission to probe illegalities

Panaji, Oct 4 (PTI): Goa has decided not to allow resumption of mining until the findings of its Public Accounts Committee and the Justice M B Shah Commission are dealt with in accordance with the law.

Apart from this, on Wednesday, the state appointed a retired judge, RM Khandeparkar, to investigate the illegalities cited by the Shah Commission.

The Manohar Parrikar government’s decision to wait was stated in a confidential Cabinet Note, a copy of which is with PTI.

The state, known mainly for its iron ore, had suspended all mining activities in September, after an expert panel formed by the Union government found “serious illegalities and irregularities” in mining operations. The exchequer is said to have lost Rs 35,000 crore.

However, there are no restrictions on movement of iron ore already produced and stored at ports or in transit.

“State government has proposed not to permit resumption of mining in the State of Goa, till such time as the findings of the Public Accounts Committee and Justice Shah Commission of Inquiry, are adequately remedied and dealt with in accordance with Law,” the note reads. The decision is based on the legal opinion given by the state Advocate General.

Parrikar was the Leader of Opposition when the PAC headed by him exposed large-scale illegalities and irregularities in the state's iron ore mining industry. He cracked down on the illegalities shortly after coming to power in March this year.

In September 2012, the Justice M B Shah Commission, which was appointed nearly two years ago, made similar observations in its report tabled in the House.

The Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA) said the setting up of another committee would only delay the resumption of the mining activity.

Parrikar had claimed that his government would allow immediate restarting of mining operations provided the miners submit all relevant legal documents required for extraction of ore.

The GMOEA, which represents majority of the mine owners and exporters, is wary that stoppage of mining activity will spell trouble for the iron ore rich belt, which is entirely dependent on this activity as an economic activity.

“Mining operations in Goa have been kept under suspension for close to a month now and many ancillary units have been having a difficult time and pressing for restarting mines at the earliest,” said GMOEA.