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Nearly 70 mines in Goa within 10 km of prohibited areas: Panel

A Supreme Court-appointed panel on Thursday told the apex court that nearly 70 iron ore mines in Goa fall within the prohibited 10 km radius of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries and the environment clearance certificates of miners must be reviewed. ‘Mining operations are not permissible within a distance of 1 km of the boundaries of a National Park/ Wildlife Sanctuary’, the panel said.

‘Pursuant to the earlier order of the apex court, the environment clearances granted to the mining leases located within a distance of 10 km of nearby National Parks/ Sanctuaries are required to be placed before the Standing Committee for National Board of Wildlife, which has not been done here,’ the counsel for the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) told a forest bench headed by Justice AK Patnaik.

The plea was vehmently opposed by senior advocates KK Venugopal and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for mining companies, who said that the issue of keeping a buffer zone around national parks and sanctuaries are still pending in the court.

‘Moreover, the 10-km radius rule could not be applied uniformly across the country as it will cover almost all of Goa,’ Rohatgi said.

‘Have we delivered the judgement? Despite all your (senior lawyer) maturity, you all are getting nervous,’ the bench, also comprising justices SS Nijjar and FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, told to senior lawyers appearing for the miners.
The CEC, ealier on 7 December last year, had recommended revocation of environmental clearances granted to 42 iron ore mining leases located near national parks and sanctuaries in the state.

During the hearing, the court took strong note of the absence of the counsel for the Ministries of Environment and Forests and Mining, saying ‘they should have been here.’ ‘It appears that Government of India is not interested. It wants you (CEC) to do whatever you want to,’ Justice Patnaik said in a lighter vein.

AD N Rao, counsel for the CEC, in his day-long arguments, referred to various orders of the apex court and the CEC report on illegal mining in Goa and said the leases of firms, which operate within the prohibited buffer zone of national parks and sanctuaries, be reviewed.
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