Goa panchayats protest iron ore export ban

Panaji: Fearing that the Shah Commission, probing the illegal mining in Goa, might put a ban on iron ore exports, members of village panchayats here have started appealing to the state government, through advertisements in leading newspapers, not to stop the mining activities in the state.

A series of advertisements in leading newspapers in Goa are showing the panchayat members, requesting the state government with folded hands, not to close down the mines, which, they say, could lead to unemployment, starvation and other serious issues.

In one such advertisement, the Collem panchayat in the mining belt of Sanguem, has given five days of "deadline" to the state government, "to save Goa and its people, dependent on mining, from serious consequences of social and economic crisis."

Sarpanch of Collem panchayat, Sandeep Desai said that the state government should explain to the Shah Commission the importance of mining in Goa`s economy and people`s huge dependence on it. "Government should tell the Commission that if lawful mining activities are curtailed or stopped, it would have grave consequences," he said.

Justice M B Shah Commission, enquiring into the illegal mining activity in the state, is expected to give its first report on December 1. Justice Shah had given indications that a ban on export of iron ore was likely.

The panchayats have also demanded that there should be no buffer-zone between wildlife sanctuaries and mines, which will save several mines from being shut down. Several mines in the state are tapping the ore right next to the boundary of wildlife sanctuary, which has been objected to by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest.

State Forest Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues said that the state government cannot go by the media advertisements, without applying its own mind or examining the legalities. He said that six different committees have been formed to work out sanctuary-specific buffer zones. "All the six committees would give their report within a month," he added.