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Transporting mineral-rich reject in large quantities will cause air pollution and its processing will produce waste, says ministry
The Union ministry of mines has written to the the Goa government, saying environment clearance (EC) is mandatory for removing mining rejects dumped outside mine lease areas. Mine owners in the state have been dumping mining reject outside their lease areas for the past many years. In recent years, illegal miners have been making a beeline for this waste containing low ore content because now technology makes it possible to extract metal from this mining reject.
The mining ministry's clarification dated July 2 on obtaining EC even for removing mining dumps was in response to a letter by Goa's mining secretary, R K Verma, who contended that lifting mine dump does not require a separate clearance. Verma quoted the state solicitor general's opinion in the letter addressed to G Srinivasan, joint secretary, ministry of mines. “Removal of mine ore dumps does not require environmental clearance as per the Environment Protection Act,” says the letter.
The removal of mining dumps was banned by the Goa government last year (October 2011) after a hue and cry following the Shah Commission probe into mining irregularities. The report identifies huge profits to be made from from exporting ores, mainly to China, as the main cause for the illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore. It also says that the prices of these ores have increased about 20 times.
Dumps are now mineral stocks
“These mine dumps have a good market value for the percentage of mineral content in it, hence they can be treated like stocks of mineral ore. Moreover, these are dumped outside the mine lease area. Now if these mineral dumps are to be handled in huge amounts, it will definitely impact the environment. Therefore, environmental clearance is regarded mandatory for removing these kinds of dumps outside the mine lease areas,” says Anil Subramaniam, deputy secretary in the mines ministry.
An estimated 750 million tonnes of mining reject is dumped all over the state as of 2011, according to the mine lease holder survey by the state government. The mine dumps are a result of rampant mining in the past 30 to 40 years, says the report.
When asked about the possible environmental impact of handling mine dumps, Rajesh Srivastava, member of expert appraisal committee on mining in the Union environment ministry, said: “Previously there were technologies to process ores which had more than 40 per cent mineral content, but today we have advanced technologies to process ores with 30 per cent mineral content. Considering the fact that these dumps in Goa have mineral content of more than 30 per cent, they are to be called ores rather than dumps. Transporting these mineral-rich dumps in large quantities will cause air pollution. Further processing of these mineral rich dumps will produce waste.
These are some of the possible impacts of handling these dumps.”
Ninety mines were operating in the state in 2010-2011. The Goa mining industry contributes approximately 35 per cent of the state’s GDP. Mining as an industry attracts Rs 17,000 crore in the form of foreign exchange and fetches Rs 6,000 crore in form of direct revenues to the state and the Central government, according to Goa Mineral Ore Exporter 's Association's website.
When contacted, Verma, Goa's mining secretary, said he had no idea about the letter.