Court’s latest blow to Goa ore mining reflects failures of state – by Nihar Gokhale ( – May 21, 2018)

Dividing line between state and mining lease-holders blurred, High Court of Bombay at Goa said in a recent verdict.

Goa’s iron ore mining scam may seem like an old story. It is. The scam, which captured the national imagination at the turn of this decade with images of red-orange opencast pits in India’s favourite vacation state, was considered done and dusted once the mining was banned in 2012.

In the state elections that year, the Congress government – whose then chief minister is himself an accused in the scam – was defeated by the BJP on the promise of cleaning up mining. And when the Supreme Court in 2014 ordered mining to restart, but in limited quantities and under a fresh leasing regime, the “scam” subsequently went off the radar completely.

But two court judgments delivered this year – the Supreme Court on February 7, and the High Court of Bombay at Goa on May 4 – have brought forth uneasy facts and strong observations that the root of the scam was never properly addressed by the state government.

While the SC remarked that it appeared the state’s considerations were “not for the people of Goa but for the mining lease holders”, the HC has said: “We got a feeling that the dividing line between state and the mining lease holders was blurred.”

What’s been going on?

The judgments come in the backdrop of an important discovery that was made during the investigations. Although the environmental degradation was the most visible and permanent impact, it was soon apparent that the root of the scam lay in the mining leases – the legal root of any mining operation.

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