33 mines face closure with MoEF’s expected nod for 1 km buffer zone

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Thirty three out of the 93 mines in Goa are within one kilometre from the boundary of the nearest national park or protected area, according to the Justice Shah Commission report on illegal mining and the future of these
mines looks bleak, point out sources in top mining companies as the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is likely to accept the Goa government’s request for a one kilometre buffer zone around its wildlife sanctuaries.
Sources said that informally the MoEF has already agreed to the one-km demand but an official acceptance via a notification is on the cards.   
Speaking to The Navhind Times, mining companies said that the government has requested the MoEF that its two demands be met. One, that mining may be allowed outside the buffer zone and the second, that activities within the buffer zone be minimized step-by-step and phased out after five to ten years. 
But with the Shah Commission recommending the immediate cancellation of all leases that are inside the buffer area, sources said that it remains to be seen whether the second demand will receive consent from the Union Environment Ministry. 
Interestingly, the Shah Commission says that if the buffer zone is extended by five kilometres, another seven mines also need to be shut down as the “adverse impact of these mines on the protected areas cannot be ruled out.” 
Meanwhile, of the 33 mines pulled up by the Shah Commission, about 25 are in Sanguem while the remaining are located in Bicholim and Sattari talukas. They comprise a total capacity of approximately five million tonnes of ore, according to mining industry sources.  With rampant mining in and around wildlife  areas in India, the MoEF had established a 10-km buffer zone ordering that all mining activities be prohibited within that distance from boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries. However, the Goa government had argued that in view of the small size of the state and the existing restrictions near eco- sensitive zones affecting development, it should be allowed a shorter distance by way of barrier. 
Recently, the mines department had asked all mining leaseholders to conduct digital global positioning survey (DGPS) of the mines by June 15, 2013, to ascertain boundaries and violations. The cost of the survey would be borne by the mining companies and the survey is to be carried out by seven firms empanelled by the department. 
The DGPS survey is in full swing, although major companies said that such surveys had already been conducted by them in the past but would have to be redone to get it authenticated by the approved government agencies. The cost of the survey is about Rs 4.5 lakh. 
Companies said that the government should have asked leaseholders to conduct the DGPS way back in September 2012 when the issue of illegal mining broke out.  Nonetheless, even a belated survey could give out the right signals to the MoEF and the Supreme Court, they said. 
The Apex Court has banned all iron ore mining in Goa and kept pending its judgement on resumption. The next Supreme Court hearing for Goa mining is in the second or third week of July although the date has not been announced. [NT]

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