Herald: It’s 3 more years of MINING DUST & traffic jams
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It’s 3 more years of MINING DUST & traffic jams

06 May 2017 07:32pm IST
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06 May 2017 07:32pm IST
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GSIDC is set to start with the three-phase construction of mining corridors post the monsoon and likely to complete the project in three years. SHWETA KAMAT has the details

The recent struggle by villagers of Sonshi against the dust pollution due to transportation of iron ore from the residential area and subsequent blockage of traffic is not something new for the mining-rich talukas of Goa. But, the fight, that landed into jail 45 villagers, who were demanding clean air to breath, has highlighted the urgency and need for having dedicated mining corridors, for ferrying the ore from lease site to the jetties bypassing the thickly inhabited areas. 

But unfortunately, the villagers will have to wait for at least three more years to get rid of the increasing dust pollution. This is because the nodal agency for the project -- Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC) -- has decided to commence the work on the construction of three-phase mining corridors after the monsoon season and it is expected to be complete in next three years.

But at the same time, Government is clear that it won’t allow annual production limit to go up to 38 million tonnes as proposed by Supreme Court appointed Expert Committee, unless mining companies provide necessary infrastructure. 

“It is a huge project. We will require at least three years to complete the entire three-phase mining corridor. We intend to start the work post coming monsoons,” GSIDC chairman Deepak Prabhu Pawaskar said. 

“Also we have to take into account the operation of mining leases. In certain places like Tilamol, Rivona in South, several mines have not commenced and hence it won’t be feasible enough to invest and build corridors there. We have to take into consideration all the aspects,” said the Chairman, who himself hails from the mining rich constituency of Sanvordem.

It was way back in 2011, when the then Chief minister Digambar Kamat, in the State budget 2011-12, had earmarked Rs 500 crore for the mining corridors, which would by-pass the truck transport from the village areas. Government had claimed that the corridors would be built on cost-sharing basis, as the roads would be exclusively used by the trucks transporting ore from the mining sites to the jetties, from where they are loaded into big ships. 

Mining corridors are dedicated tracks which are solely used for transportation of iron ore to avoid dust pollution and vehicular accidents involving iron ore trucks, which is a common feature on the roads in the mining belt. 

The first phase of the mining corridor is proposed between Uguem and Guddemol, having a stretch of around 8.9 km, and the second phase between Guddemol and Capxem with a stretch of 8.4 km. The government has also proposed the third phase of around 32 km stretch between Cavrem and Uguem.

However, the Kamat government found itself in a piquant situation after the ambitious project failed to garner much support from mining firms which were expected to share the cost. 

Although the work of phase I from Uguem to Guddemol, was tendered in 2011, the mining firms developed cold feet, stunning the state government. GSIDC had even signed an agreement with Niraj Cement Structural’s Limited to construct first phase costing Rs 65.76 crores. However, the work execution never took place. 

The mining companies at that point of time were of the firm view that they pay huge sum of money to the government in the form of royalty and other taxes and hence, the same should be spent on creating necessary infrastructure. 

The Government in 2012 had published sections IV, VI and VII of the Land Acquisition Act for two phases. The government has an estimated budget of over Rs 115 crore for the first phase and Rs 111 crore for the second. The estimate for the third phase of project is still in process.

While the tussle between the State government and mining firms on the funding issue continued to halt the corridor project, the sudden ban on decade-old mining industry in September 2012, kept the project on the back burner. 

In January 2013, GSIDC scrapped the contract of the first phase of the mining corridor and decided to hold back the proposal till resumption of mining activities. 

“Mining companies would never have agreed to fund the project. But if there was no ban, the State would have managed to raise the funds get the phase one and two of the projects complete during its last tenure. The one and half year long ban and subsequent lean period that lasted for another one year post lifting the suspension, delayed the project,” a senior GSIDC official said. 

“With demand for iron ore, now not being at its peak and with only few leases operational, the mining companies may not come forward for funding, this time too. Now they have an excuse,” the official said. 

Mining corridors did not figure in the financial statements -- State Budget-for 2016-7 and also 2017-18 ­ --with Government failing to earmark any amount. 

The current Manohar Parrikar-led government is exploring three options to fund the long-pending construction of a dedicated mining corridor for ore transportation. The first option is to have the mining companies to fund the project; the second is for the government to outsource it to a private player to construct the corridor and the third is the government itself funding the entire project with 10 per cent share from District Mineral Fund (DMF), constituted as per directions of Supreme Court and the Union Mines Ministry MMRD Act.

“At present, the annual production limit is capped at 20 million tonnes and it may go to 30 million tonnes if Supreme Court allows. But if the companies want it to be 38 million tonnes, then they will have to show us dedicated bypass, not passing through village areas, from where their trucks would ply. We will not allow any kind of pollution in the villages due to mining,” GSIDC Chairman said. 

He said that GSIDC is going to fund the project, which will also include 10 per cent share from the District Mineral Funds, where the mine owners have paid one third of their royalty payment for the development of barren mining areas. “Further, we will have to discuss with Chief Minister to explore more ideas for funding the project,” Pawaskar said. 

As per information, there are around Rs 115 crores deposited with the GMF till date, of which not a single amount has been spent. 

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