Mining in Goa: SC allows transport of iron ore mined before deadline

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Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed mining companies to transport iron ore mined in Goa before March 15, 2018, which may be lying at jetties, stockyards or pitheads, provided royalty is paid to the state.

Deciding appeals challenging an order of Bombay High Court, a bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said that on two earlier occasions, another bench had allowed transport of the mineral already lying at the jetties.

“We do not find that there is any rationale in differentiating between the iron ore which is either at the jetties or at the stockyards or pitheads, if the same is mined prior to the date of the prohibition i.e. 15.3.2018. There is no doubt that the ownership of the ore is that of the party that has raised the ore. The ore which has been permitted to be transported is on condition of payment of royalty. We see no reason why the owners should not be allowed to transport their own ore,” the court ruled and gave the companies six months to move their stock.

The Supreme Court set aside the High Court judgment quashing the Goa government’s 2018 decision permitting transportation of mineral/iron ore mined prior to March 15, 2018.

The High Court order came on a plea by NGO Goa Foundation which challenged the permission granted by the state to transport minerals mined before March 15, 2018.

Acting on a plea by the Foundation, the Supreme Court in 2014 held that all iron and manganese ore leases had expired on November 22, 2007 and any mining operation carried out after that was illegal. It also held that mining leaseholders had enjoyed a first deemed renewal and for a second renewal, an express order was required to be passed.

Subsequently, many mining leaseholders filed writ petitions in the High Court praying for consideration of their applications for a second renewal of lease or for grant of a lease on second renewal.

In 2014, the High Court asked Goa to execute lease deeds in favour of the leaseholders who had paid stamp duty and to consider applications of other leaseholders.

This order was challenged in Supreme Court which set it aside in 2018 and gave mining leaseholders, who had been granted the second renewal, “time to manage their affairs” and added that they “may continue their mining operations till 15/3/2018”.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. “There was a plea for allowing transportation of extracted ore. They (SC) have permitted us today. It will benefit the economy,” he said. -With ENS Panaji