Leaders of the ruling BJP are not happy with the 20-million tonne cap imposed on mining in Goa by the Supreme Court, while lifting a 18-month ban on the industry.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs from the mining belt want the apex court to double the ceiling, claiming that those dependant on the mining industry would continue to suffer due to the conservative cap. "We were extracting more than 50 million tonnes (in 2011) before the ban. We want the cap to be at least 40 to 45 million tons," BJP spokesperson and MLA from the Sanquelim, located in Goa's mining belt 35 kms from the capital.
After banning mining in Goa 18 months ago, the Supreme Court Monday allowed extraction of only up to 20 million metric tonnes of ore annually. The Supreme Court also banned mines located within one kilometre of Goa's numerous wildlife sanctuaries which fringe the mining belt. Both the ceiling on ore extraction and the buffer zone outside wildlife areas are subject to recommendations made by a committee appointed by the apex court.
The ban had ground to halt the legal mining industry as well as illegal mining activity which according to conservative estimates was as big as one third of legal mining in sheer volume. The additional illegal mining component had also resulted in businesspersons investing heavily in mining equipment and transportation, which is now gathering dust due to the ban.
Nilesh Cabral, a BJP MLA from Curchorem, also a mining town in South Goa claims that the BJP-led coalition government would work towards increasing this cap from 20 million tonnes to 40 million tonnes and in turn "help" iron ore truckers and ore-ferrying river barge owners.
"We will make it 40 million tonnes from 20 million tonnes," Cabral said.
Environmentalist Ramesh Gauns has also expressed apprehension about the cap set by the Supreme Court, but for a different reason. "The Supreme Court order is a moral victory for those who have had to suffer from illegal mining for years. But what worries me is what was the criteria set for the cap? Can a cap be announced just like that?" Gauns said.
Mining in Goa, was banned in October 2012 by the apex court while hearing a petition on large scale illegalities in Goa's mining sector.
A central government-appointed Shah Commission has exposed a Rs. 35,000 crore illegal mining scam in Goa, which politicians, bureaucrats and mining company magnates are linked.