Panaji, Oct 10: A state of uncertainty looms large in Goa's mining belt, as people fear closure of several mines, which may spell doom for many dependent on this industry in the coastal state.
The mining belt, which runs across seven out of 12 talukas of the state, is prominently dependent on extraction and transportation of ore to earn money. A total 90-odd leases scattered over these talukas has 20,000 trucks plying between the mining sites and jetties where the ore is dumped into smaller ships which carry it forward to the harbour.
A detailed probe by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has pointed out that almost 50 pc of mining leases have violated norms, which means the ore extracted from them is ‘illegal'.
Worst fears are now being expressed that Justice M B Shah Commission, which is investigating into illegal iron ore scam, will recommend shutting down of these illegal mines, unleashing crisis on the people in this belt.
“There were only 5,000 trucks a decade back. But now their number has gone up to 20,000,” Prasanna Ghodge, promoter of PVG Group, one of the biggest transporter for Sesa Goa, told PTI.
Ghodge, who has been in this business for last 20 years, say that people are not supporting illegal mining but many of them do not know whether the ore that they carry in their trucks are legal or illegal.
“How are we supposed to know it? Its for the government to decide it. The trucks ply on the mines once they start. The truck owner will not know whether the mine has exceeded its permissible limit or not,” he said.
As per a rough estimate, there are at least two lakh people who are dependent on the mining industry.
“Imagine what will happen to the coastal belt, if government stops tourists from arriving here. Same thing will happen to rural belt, if mining is stopped,” Vinayak Gawas, Dharbandora Taluka Truck Owners Association member, said.
Dharbandora, a newly notified taluka, is one amongst the talukas having maximum density of mining leases.
Admitting that too much of iron ore extraction has spoilt the industry, Govind Sawant, a truck owner and local politician, said there should be ban on any further purchase of trucks in the mining belt.
Each truck costs Rs 15 lakh. “These trucks are useless, if there is no mining. We can't use them for any other activity,” he said.
The people who are dependent on mining industry has now decided to have a street protests in Panaji on Wednesday, October 12, when Shah Commission will re-arrive in the state.
Sawant said they will be handing over a memorandum to the Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar seeking their intervention in protecting legal mining industry. PTI