New Delhi: The ban on mining of iron ore in Goa will continue as the Supreme Court on Monday extended the time by a month for submission of the report by the panel which was asked to suggest the annual cap on volume of iron ore to be extracted.
“Unless we deliver judgement, no mining can resume. Moment the report comes, we will tell you about the judgement,” a three-judge forest bench headed by Justice AK Patnaik said.
The bench posted the matter for March 24 and asked the apex court-appointed six-member committee to submit its final report by March 15.
It opened a document, which was submitted in a sealed cover, and said that besides appraising the court about the work, the panel has sought three months time to submit the final report.
However, the bench said it can only grant a month’s time for placing of final report.
The monitoring committee, formed by the apex court to oversee e-auction of ore, also submitted its report and was granted a time of two weeks to submit the next report.
The apex court had on November 11, 2013 allowed e-auctioning of nearly 11.48 million tonnes of extracted iron ore lying unused in Goa for over a year after it halted mining operations in 90 mines there.
The apex court, which had on October 5 last year stopped mining, transportation and export of iron ore in Goa following a report of irregularities by the Justice MB Shah Commission, had also ordered setting up of another six-member panel asking it to file its report by February 15, 2014, suggesting the annual cap on volume of iron ore to be extracted.
The six-member panel has one representative each from Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Department of Mining besides “an ecologoist, a geologist, a mineralogist and an expert on forest.”
The panel was asked to look into the issues of fixing the annual cap on iron ore mining by keeping in view the principle of inter-generational equity and the environment-carrying capacity.
The issue of environment-carrying capacity relates to what extent the environment and surroundings of a mine can sustain or bear ore extraction activities.
The bench had on November 11 said it would pronounce the verdict on the PIL after the filing of the report by the expert committee on February 15.
The bench had also reserved the verdict on the issue of allowing mining operations in the state which had been halted following the report of the high-level commission headed by Justice Shah indicting all miners, saying illegal extraction of iron ore during the past 12 years had caused a loss of Rs 35,000 crore to the state exchequer.
NGO Goa Foundation had filed the PIL on alleged illegal iron ore extraction in the state.
Earlier, Goa government had said 45 million tonnes of iron ore extraction can be allowed annually. The state had also sought permisison from the court to transport and export 11 million tonnes of already excavated iron ore lying unused following the ban on mining.
During the hearing, the apex court had said there should be a proper system to regulate mining and other related activities in Goa.
The court had started hearing the PIL after Sesa Goa, a Vedanta Group firm, sought an early decision on the issue.