The five-decade-old iron ore extraction industry in the State is looking at another bout of uncertainty from tomorrow onwards as the Supreme Court imposed ban comes into force from tonight.
State government has agreed that the sudden stoppage of extraction of fresh ore would result in the unemployment of two lakh people who are working on the mining sites on different assignments.
The State government has drawn meticulous plan under which the mine owners will stop extraction of ore from tonight onwards while machineries will be moved out subsequently.
The Supreme Court in its order on February 7 has quashed 88 mining leases in the coastal state. The people dependent on this industry are in the panic as there is no sign of resumption of the mining activity in near future.
This is second big blow to the industry, which had faced closure in the year 2012 following SC’s directives. The apex court had taken cognizance of the M B Shah commission report which had claimed that there was illegal mining worth Rs 35,000 crore in the State between the year 2005-2012.
The industry remained banned for nearly 19 months from October 2012 to April 2014 when the SC finally allowed the industry to operate imposing several riders. The restriction of extracting only 20 million metric tonnes was also imposed on the industry, which had double the capacity to tap the ore before SC ban on it in the year 2012.
After SC ban, it took another 18 months for the industry to actually start the extraction as the first fresh extraction took place in October 2015. The industry could not come to its full glory after resumption as during the fiscal 2015-16, hardly 7.2 million metric tonnes of the ore being extracted.
The figures available from the Department of Mines and Geology indicates that 37.11 million metric tonnes of ore was extracted from the time ban was lifted till date bringing in revenue of Rs 1,243.54 crore.
“The main reason why industry could not pick up the speed is because of lack of demand from the markets like China which was a traditional buyer of ore from Goa. The ore produced in the State is of low grade and it has no value in the international market,” said Haresh Melwani, a mine owner and member of Goa Mining Association.
He said that the industry had reeling under crisis even after the ban was lifted due to several reasons including the taxation on the product.
The shutting down of the mining industry, even for a time being, is expected to have economic impact on Goa. “Overall economy of the State will slow down. The impact is going to be huge. People living in mining belt are in the panic. Their livelihood would be lost,” said Deepak Pauskar, a MGP legislator representing Sanvordem constituency, which is predominantly a mining belt.
He said that the State government has been trying to work out solution for the crisis but there may not be immediate relief available for the people.