New Delhi: In a major relief to mining firms in Goa, the Supreme Court on Tuesday extended the time, till end-January 2021, for the removal of the minerals mined on or before March 15, 2018.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: “The lessees (mining firms) are granted time up to end of January, 2021 for the removal of the minerals excavated/mined on or before March 15, 2018, subject to payment of royalties and other charges.”
On January 30, the top court had granted six months to all lease holders to transport the mineral already excavated and this period expired on June 30. The bench noted due to lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the exercise could not be completed, and a few firms filed applications for extension of time with effect from October 1.
However, the respondent in the case, NGO Goa Foundation, argued that the state government should have invoked Rule 12(1) (hh) to confiscate the minerals allegedly lying at site for the past more than two and half years.
In terms of Rule 12(1) (hh) of The Minerals (Other than Atomic and Hydro Carbons Energy Minerals) Concession Rules, 2016, the mineral not removed within a period of six calendar months is liable to be confiscated to the government.
The NGO had filed an application for clarification in September, after the expiry of six months period granted by the apex court, by the judgment.
On this, the top court said: “The quantity of mineral to be removed by each of the lessees shall be determined by the concerned officials with reference to the records of the government maintained at the relevant point of time; If within the time stipulated above, the lessees could not remove the mineral, the government shall invoke the power under Rule 12(1) (hh).”
One of the contentions was in connection with the quantity of mineral allegedly mined on or before March 15, 2018, but lying unremoved from leasehold area.
The state Advocate General stated that the government has complete details about the mineral already excavated and lying at site. “The lessees cannot remove more than what the records of the Government, already maintained in the course of discharge of official duties of the concerned officers, reflect,” the state government had contended before the top court.
In January this year, the apex court had modified its earlier order, allowing the mining firms to transport validly mined iron ore from mines in Goa, within six months, on the condition that they have paid royalty to the government authorities. The verdict by the apex court was delivered on a plea by mining firm Chowgule and Company Private Ltd.
In 2018, the apex court quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to nearly 88 companies in Goa in 2015, banning mining and transportation of iron ore in Goa.