No need to panic over Goa mining leases cancellation: Parrikar

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After initially refusing to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel all the 88 mining leases recently renewed by the state government, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday said there was no cause for panic.

Parrikar said a formal statement would be issued by his office in two-three days after studying the order of the apex court which is expected to impact the iron ore mining sector in Goa, the country’s highest exporter of iron ore. “There is no panic. We can decide in two, three days. I have to also seek legal advice on the issue. As a Chief Minister I cannot comment casually. The order is not applicable (from) tomorrow.

“I will not offer any comment, unless I go through it and find out what exactly it is and what should be done… In that judgement, I understand, that court has also said that auction may not necessarily be the means. I think it has been said somewhere (in the order). “So that means different possibilities have opened, but let me first read properly,” Parrikar added. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court cancelled all existing iron ore mining leases in Goa and ordered that the leases should be auctioned to new licencees after obtaining new environmental clearances.  As per the order, all ore extraction activity on the renewed leases should cease by March 15.

Goa is the country’s leading exporter of low grade iron ore and exported nearly 50 million tonnes before the Shah Commission in 2012 exposed a Rs 35,000 crore scam, implicating nearly all major mining industrial houses with then Congress Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and key bureaucrats. Iron ore extraction in Goa was subsequently halted by a series of bans by the state and central governments and eventually by a final ban by the Supreme Court in 2012. However, a BJP-led coalition government in 2014-15 renewed the mining leases in favour of the same mining companies accused by the Shah Commission of illegal mining.

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