New Delhi: In a major relief to mining firms, the Supreme Court Thursday permitted them to transport “royalty paid” iron ore, mined prior to March 15, 2018 in Goa.
The top court took note of the legislative policy and directed the mining firms that all “such transportation shall be completed within a period of six months from today”.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, delivered the verdict on a batch of petitions filed by several mining firms including Chowgule and Company Pvt Ltd against the order of the Bombay High Court order.
The high court had quashed the decision taken on March 21, 2018 by the Goa government permitting mining leaseholders to pay royalty on mineral, which was already mined till March 15, 2018 and transport it.
Setting side the high court order, the bench took note of its earlier judgement in which “mining leaseholders were given time to manage their affairs and may continue their mining operations till March 15, 2018.”
“We are, therefore, inclined to allow all the appeals. Order accordingly. We set aside the impugned judgment and order dated May 4, 2018 passed by the High Court and uphold the decision of the State of Goa dated March 21, 2018, which permits transportation of mineral/iron ore which is mined prior to March 15, 2018.
“Needless to state, that the transportation of the mineral would be only in respect of such minerals on which royalty is paid. The appellants/mining leaseholders would be permitted to transport the royalty paid ore/mineral from the jetties/stockyard or pitheads on the basis of the valid transit permits issued to them by the competent authority of the State Government,” the bench said.
Referring to the earlier order, it said that firms were permitted to transport iron ore on which royalty was paid and which was lying on the jetties on or before March 15, 2018.
“If this Court in Goa Foundation II (judgement) intended to prohibit the mining as well as transportation of the minerals/iron ore with effect from March 16, 2018 nothing precluded it from doing so. However, the words used were that the lessees are permitted to manage their affairs and are permitted to continue mining till March 15, 2018.
“The only prohibition contained in the said order after March 15, 2018 is for carrying out mining operations. Not only this but the same Bench which has decided the Goa Foundation II …itself on two occasions has permitted the mineral to be transported from the jetties…,” it said.
The bench said it will not be out of place to mention that state government took the “specific stand” that it was monitoring to ensure that only such mineral is permitted to be transported which is mined prior to March 15, 2018.
The court made clear that its earlier directions have to be followed by the state and the mining firms.
The top court in February 2018 had quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to as many as 88 companies in Goa in 2015 and directed the Centre and the Goa government to grant fresh environmental clearances to them.
The court had, however, said that mining lease holders, who have been granted a second renewal in violation of its previous decision and directions, are granted time to manage their affairs and may continue mining operations till March 15, 2018.
“However, they are directed to stop all mining operations with effect from March 16, 2018 until fresh mining leases (not fresh renewals or other renewals) are granted and fresh environmental clearances are granted,” the bench had said.
The judgement had then come on a petition filed by NGO ‘Goa Foundation’, which had also raised the issue of companies carrying out mining in violation of various statutes.