Shooting down criticism that his government is anti-mining, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar said he is awaiting Supreme Court's order allowing resumption of mining activity but with certain restrictions. "Any restriction which takes care of environment is welcome," he said.
The coastal state's economy has suffered since mining ban was imposed on it by the Supreme Court on account of largescale illegal activities. Parrikar has often been accused by the Congress as being the "kingpin" behind closure of mining in Goa that rendered hundreds jobless.
Clarifying his position in an exclusive interview to CNBC-TV18's Shereen Bhan, Parrikar said he is not in favour of the proposed mining cap if logistical hurdles are removed. He candidly mentioned that the ban has resulted in the state losing 25 percent of its revenue.
Below is a verbatim transcript of the interview on CNBC-TV18
Q: Let me start by asking you about the mining ban in your state. It was a ban that you imposed, it was then taken forward by the Supreme Court, there is hope that a final order in this matter will be delivered by the Supreme Court perhaps by the end of this month. The likelihood is that the Supreme Court will infact lift the ban but the kind of restrictions that are likely to be imposed is where the grey area is. What are your assumptions at this point in time?
A: Any restriction which takes care of environment and proper management of the movement of the ore that means the legality part of it, I welcome. Government has already put in steps and we are in position to put those restrictions in place. There is no harm in them.
Q: But are you in favour of a cap which is what a committee has been set up to look into because my understanding is that the state government is not in favour of a cap on mining.
A: No there is a basic logic, that cap concept has to be explored as I feel where do we cap, cap it for a local mine, cap it for a village, cap it for a taluka, cap it for state or cap it for country. A cap should be production cap, it has to be across country, a country has to decide.
Q: So you are saying there has to be uniformity across every state?
A: Yes and it has to be decided as a country as a whole. What do you mean by intergeneration equity for only a restricted area, it cannot be. The area has to be across the nation. So cap has to be based on the nation as a whole.
For individual mines the cap exists through an environment clearance certificate, there is already a cap. The cap we are proposing is because of logistic and other problems. So if there is no logistic problem and if proper exploration is carried out, based on the real quantum of the ore I feel that cap can be decided but I don''t think you should call it a cap, you can allow things to be controlled based on economy also.
Q: Who should take that call, should the state government take that call?
A: The state government has to take it. State and central government together has to take it. If required the appropriate laws has to be amended wherever required.
Q: You said that a lot of things have been put in place to actually facilitate the restarting of mining, let me ask you about the e-auction process where you actually have been given the clearance to be able to auction the 11 million tonnes that are still lying within the state. Where do things stand, how soon can we see this process take off?
A: It is not 11 million tonnes, there is no figure written in the SC order but what is important is available ore. So, we have started the auction. February 17 is the first lot of about seven-eight lakh tonnes, almost a million which is mostly lying on jetties and port which has been cleared so those jetties get cleared and empty plots we can start movement of the ore from the pit heads.
Q: So you are saying on February 17 the first auction will take place.
Q: There have been reports of differences as far as your opinion is concerned on the buffer zone. Environmentalists believe that the buffer zone should be at least 10 kms, you believe that it should be at least 1 km and you believe if its 10 kms all activity will come to a virtual halt as far as states like Goa are concerned?
A: I don't understand the buffer zone concept. When you have declared a particular area as wildlife you have already taken into consideration the buffer zone. What we are talking is an eco sensitive area beyond wildlife. It depends on the situation. First of all if there is a big river then whatever logic is being expressed stand. So it will depend on the local area how the buffer zone is devised. The concept once it is understood please leave it to the local area, local area specific to decide how much buffer should be there. We in India seems to believe ‘one size fits all’ but it has to be a local concept.
Q: You know the report now seems to have swung the other way from saying that you were anti mining, anti corporate and all of that, now the suggestion seems to be that you have actually turned pro-mining, turned pro-industry and things like relaxation as far as the buffer zone is concerned is a swing towards that direction. How do you respond to that criticism?
A: I don't believe in buffer zone. Eco sensitive zone okay but buffer zone is already taken into consideration when wildlife is notified. Wildlife already has a buffer zone. Secondly, I believe that it should be area specific, there may be area where 10 km is also required but don't make it a general rule.
From where did this 10 km come from at all? It was 10 km initially put up during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time for consideration as one of the discussion points but suppose I say 10 km for Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary then the city of Panaji also comes under that. Now do you think Panaji is a sensitive zone for a bird sanctuary? For a bird sanctuary on three sides there is water, on the other side half a km or 300 meters is more than adequate. So you have to be site specific based on the actual ground reality and if required why only 10 km, it can also be 100 kms. For example, Andaman Nicobar may have eco-sensitive area which is bigger.
Q: Let me ask you about the mechanisms that you are actually putting in place and you said, 'we need clear laws and strict implementation instead of a moral debate on the issues of mining, it exists, lets tackle it. What has the government done to put in place a mechanism that will ensure that you don't have unrestricted, unregulated mining activity?
A: The basic logic is we have notified transportation rules, no one can just come up and start transporting.
Q: This is what was happening, there were only 8000 registered truck owners but 16000-20000 were actually operating in the state.
A: Now only the trucks which have proper recognition by the government whatever mechanism, whether it is a barcode mechanism, whether it is radio frequency use, we will decide about that and that will immediately get implemented when this e-auction takes place because that movement will be regulated through this mechanism, we can take the trial.