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Eerie silence in iron ore-rich Goa villages after Supreme Court mining order

News Agencies | Updated on: 18 March 2018, 14:11 IST

An eerie silence has descended on the villages in the iron ore-rich belt in Goa with the implementation of the Supreme Court order on closure of mines, which were abuzz with activities till three days back.

The mining trucks, which used to criss-cross the region kicking up dust as they moved, are now parked along the roads, while the machinery is lying untouched near the entrance of the mining leases.

The picture is now more or less same in every mining village.

In the main market areas in these villages and towns, worried faces are now seen discussing the fate of the mining industry.

The five-decade-old mining industry in the state came to a grinding halt from Friday with the Supreme Court order of a ban on iron ore extraction.

The apex court had last month quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to 88 companies in Goa in 2015.

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It had set March 15 deadline for the miners to manage their affairs.

"This is going to be a major economic disaster as it will impact the lives of around three lakh people in North Goa alone.

It is a question of life and death for those dependent on the industry," Vishnu Rama Naik, former MLA of Sankhalim, said.

Shivdas Madkar, a truck owner who is among the several hundred people in this belt who are solely dependent on the industry for livelihood, said, "This is more serious than last time (2012).

People had a hope that mining has resumed and hence they got their trucks repaired with the money taken on loan from the banks.Now the problems have grown." Madkar was referring to the SC ban on mining activities across 90 mines in Goa from October 2012, which was lifted in April 2014.

However, the mining operations could only resume in August 2015.

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The areas of Velguem, Pali, Sonshi, Honda up to Pissurlem in Bicholim and Sattari talukas were once farmlands, where paddy was the main source of income.

"There was little mining happening around here since the 1960s. But the China boom fuelled the demand for ore and the entire situation changed. Now, every alternate house is now dependent on mining activity," says Suryakant Gawas, a school teacher.

Gawas now feels that his decision to choose to teach despite getting a lucrative job offer from a mining company turned out to be wise.

"I was offered a handsome salary by a mining firm, which took over our fields. That was the compensation that they wanted to pay to me in the form of employment. But I decided to teach and I am happy that I didn't fall for that salary offered by the mining company," he said.

Sandip Pawaskar, sarpanch of Sanvordem village, which represents the mining hotbed, feels the closure of the mining activity would adversely impact the economic condition of the people in the state.

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"People will now live on a shoe-string budget. They will have no money to buy, which will ultimately hit the markets in the mining belt. Overall, it will dent the state's economy," he said.

BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral, who represents Curchorem constituency, which also has a heavy concentration of the mining leases, said that people are in a pitiable condition.

"Whether auctioning (of mining leases) or formation of a corporation or any other mode, mining activities should resume immediately.

The current ban will have a far-reaching impact on the people, who are dependent on this activity," he said.

For the industry, this is a second huge blow by the SC within a span of six years, he said.

The industry stakeholders, including truck owners and ship operators, are now gearing up to hold a protest in Panaji tomorrow.

It is aimed at putting pressure on the state and the central governments for the resumption of the mining activity.

Union minister Gadkari is scheduled to visit Goa on Tuesday to hold talks with the state government and the stakeholders over the mining crisis.


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First published: 18 March 2018, 14:11 IST