The Supreme court extended the time for mining firms in Goa to transport the royalty paid iron ore extracted on or before 15, March 2018 till 31 January, 2021. The relief was granted on the grounds of nationwide lockdown imposed due to covid-19 pandemic.
On 30 January, the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde had directed the mining firm Chowgule and Company Private Limited among others to transport the iron ore within a period of six months from the date of judgment. The period of six months was to end on 30 July this year.
The mining firms approached the top court again, arguing that the statutory authorities had delayed in issuing the transit permit and that the nationwide lockdown imposed in March within two months from the date of the judgment had made transportation virtually unviable.
Allowing the relief sought by the miners, the top court 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.”
The court also asserted that quantity of the mineral ore to be removed shall be in accordance with the records maintained by the government at the relevant point of time. It added that the concerned officials shall verify the quantity removed by each of the lessees.
However, the three-judge bench clarified that incase the mining firms failed to remove the mineral by 31 January, 2021, then the government is at liberty to invoke its power under Rule 12(1)(hh) of the Minerals (Other than Atomic and Hydro Carbons Energy Minerals) Concession Rules, 2016 and confiscate the mined ore.
On 7 February 2018, the Supreme Court had cancelled 88 iron ore mining leases in Goa. The Supreme Court had held the government’s process of renewing the mining leases of companies to be “in violation of law” and directed the state government to stop all mining operations with effect from March 16, 2018 until fresh mining leases and fresh environmental clearances were granted.