MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta mine disaster in Goa is greeted by corporate lies and civil outrage

Published by MAC on 2011-07-25
Source: Economic Times, IANS, Times of India, statement (2011-07-22)

UK company operated for two years without permits

There's been yet another Vedanta mining-related disaster - one occurring on 16 July at the UK company's huge iron ore operations in North Goa.

Earth and silt gushes onto farmland and lakes following July 16 mine wall collapse
Earth and silt gushes onto farmland and lakes following July 16
mine wall collapse. Source:Ramesh Gauns

Heavy rains swept away major parts of a vast earthen wall containing discarded overburden.

This then poured onto  fields, lakes, and roads in the village settlements of Mulgao/Lamgao.

A Vedanta spokesperson initially acknowledged "the water silted adjoining fields" but said "there was no damage to any human and settlements".

Nonetheless, around 500 rice paddy growers and 30 horticulture plantations were reported damaged by the dirt-laden onrush.

At least one person was said to have been swept away, although fortunately rescued by other villagers.

Four days later, on 20 July, the "holiday" state's most renowned environmental rights organisation, The Goa Foundation, issued a strident call for the mine to be closed down.

The Foundation's director, Claude Alvares, claimed that, according to Goa's Pollution Control Board, the mines had been "operating for two years outside the framework of the Air Pollution Act 1981 and the Water Pollution Control Act of 1974".

In response, a Vedanta spokesperson rubbished the Foundation's claims as "baseless allegations".

But, just two days later, the company conceded the Lamgao mines had been operating without consent under the very same legislation, and admitted  there had been "damage to agricultural property".

Historical note: Vedanta acquired Sesa Goa in April 2007; just over two years later, Sesa Goa itself took over a second iron ore company, V Dempo, and with it the operations which collapsed on 16 July 2011.

In June 2009, another of Sesa Goa's pit walls caved in at the village of Advalpal, also in North Goa.

Thanks to the efforts of a nine-year old boy, backed by the Goa Foundation, Vedanta was ordered to halt its operations at this mine. See: Goa: Sky's the limit as court rules against Vedanta

Yet -  just a week later - Vedanta secured funding from two global investment banks - Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley - in order to significantly increase its iron ore exploitation of Goa. See: Culprit company announces huge expansion of Goa mines

No GSPCB consent under Air, Water Act for Sesa Goa mine

The Economic Times

22 July 2011

Panaji: Sesa Goa, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources, today admitted that consent under the Air and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was not granted for its mine at Mulgao village, whose tailing wall collapsed last week inundating several fields.

Geotextile covering, used to control overburden slippage (seen at centre) is itself torn apart
Geotextile covering, used to control overburden slippage
(seen at centre) is itself torn apart. Source: Ramesh Gauns

"The company had applied for renewal of consent from the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) and the same is under process," a company statement said.

Around 500 paddy growers and 30 horticulture plantations were affected after silt rushed through the farms. One person was washed away due to the flow of water but was later rescued by locals.

A company spokesman said the company will be preparing a detailed report to avoid mining mishaps during monsoons.

"Our company is committed to ensuring a speedy resolution in a transparent manner. Despite following our best mine management practices, owing to the extraordinarily heavy rains that the State received recently, a settling pond breached," the spokesman said referring to the mishap at Mulgao on July 16.

"Our teams have been working fervently, right after the incident, to ensure fast and effective assistance is offered to those affected," the spokesman said.

Company officials have said that adequate measures have been taken to contain the situation and to ensure that similar incidents do not recur in future at any of Sesa Goa's mines.

"Presently, technical experts are conducting an extensive study and will submit a comprehensive report along with an infallible plan for the future," the spokesman said.

"The damage to agricultural property is being assessed in consultation with the local community and State Government officials. In addition to adequate compensation for crop loss, Sesa Goa will assist the local community in cultivation activities and will aid in the restoration of the affected agricultural properties," the statement said.


Three People washed away in mining accident

Inter Asia News Service (IANS)

16 July 2011

Panaji - Three people were washed away, but later rescued in a mining-related accident in Goa Saturday, officials said.

A wall of a large mining dump, operated by the Vedanta Resources-owned Sesa Goa Private Limited at Bicholim, 30 km from here, containing millions of tonnes of rainwater cracked open flooding the nearby fields, district officials said.

At least one person was nearly drowned as mine wastes struck Mulgao village
At least one person was nearly drowned as mine wastes struck
Mulgao village. Source: Ramesh Gauns

Three people were washed away in the deluge but were saved from drowning by passers-by.

In a statement issued here, Sesa Goa said the incident occurred as a result of excessive rains.

‘Today morning at the Bicholim mine, due to heavy rainfall (191 mm in 8 hours), bund of settling pond breached and the water has flowed into the adjoining areca-nut plantation and paddy fields,' said M.K. Reddy, general manager at the Sesa Goa mine.

‘The company is taking adequate steps to repair the breach and other necessary precautionary measures on an immediate basis,' Reddy added.

Three people were drowned in a mining accident in Cuddegal in south Goa, some 50 km from here, earlier this month.


Mulgao mines unsafe, violate green laws: NGO

Times of India (TNN)

21 July 2011

PANAJI: Mapusa-based environmental NGO Goa Foundation, in a press statement issued on Wednesday, criticized Vedanta/Sesa Goa -owners of Dempo Mining Corporation mines at Mulgao-Bicholim-and statutory authorities for their "collective negligence".

"This led to the Mulgao mining disaster on July 16," Claude Alvares, director, Goa Foundation, stated.

Alvares alleged that Sesa Goa's mines are being operated under unsafe conditions and in violation of environmental laws in Mulgao village.

This was rubbished as "baseless allegations" by a spokesperson for the mining company.

Alvares further claimed that both Sesa Goa mining leases involving Mulgao village did not have the mandatory consents required from the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) under the Air Pollution Act, 1981, and the Water Pollution Control Act, 1974.


Goa Foundation Press Note on Mulgao Mining Disaster

Goa Foundation

Msapusa

20 July 2011

The Goa Foundation today criticised Vedanta/Sesa Goa company (owners of Dempo Mining Corporation mines at Bicholim/Mulgao) as well as the statutory authorities for their collective negligence which led to the Mulgao mining disaster on 16 July 2011.

It urged the village community to take steps for irrevocable closure of all the Sesa Goa mines in the area as they are being operated in unsafe conditions and in violation of environment laws.

The Foundation stated that as per the records accepted by the Bombay High Court today (20 July, 2011), both the Sesa Goa mining leases involving Mulgao village did not have mandatory consent required from the Goa Pollution Control Board under the Air Pollution Act 1981 and the Water Pollution Control Act of 1974. These mines were operating for two years outside the framework of these environment laws.

The Pollution Control Board today informed the court by affidavit that the Board will issue directions suspending operations in these mines and the Court has directed that the report would be produced before it in two weeks time.

The Goa Foundation also has access to the mining plans of these two mining leases covering Mulgao. It is clear from the details in the mining plan that the mining was not been carried out in conformity with the approved plan. In fact, several overburden dumps have been located on the steep slopes of Mulgao and Lamgao villages which is not permitted as per mining regulations.

The mining company is also in violation of specific provisions of the MCR Rules and the lease agreement which require the entire lease to be demarcated which has not been done.

The 16 July disaster which was caused by dangerous mining practices aggravated by the heavy rainfall in the week has fatally damaged several of the five Mulgao lakes. Such lage-scale destruction of water bodies which supply irrigation and water to the village is not permitted as per the mining plan and the conditions in the lease deed.

The Goa Foundation has demanded that the entire group of five mining leases belonging to Vedanta/Sesa Goa should be frozen pending an enquiry into the mining operations and their conformity with the mining regulations including the mining plan. The authorities need to know how much of ore was removed when the mine owners did not have statutory consent of the Pollution Control Board.

These demands are made in addition to any demands for compensation, punitive damages and buffer zone claimed by the village community of Mulgao.

(Dr Claude Alvares) Director


Mulgao villagers fear repeat of flood disaster

By Rajendra P Kerkar

Times of India (TNN)

18 July 2011

KERI: As the heavy monsoon showers continued on Sunday, villagers in Mulgao feared that another natural disaster was looming on their heads.

Nandakumar Parab, 30, of Gaonkarwada said that such disasters have been caused by reckless mining activity. "Our life is threatened every monsoon by these types of disasters," he said.

On July 16, the disaster was caused when several benches, that were cut into a hillside, collapsed. A large quantity of earth fell into a pit filled with water. The displaced water demolished a retaining wall, pushing boulders and stones into the horticulture fields below. As the water descended with great force, it dislodged several trees and flooded the fields at Gaonkarwada-Mulgao.

On Sunday, a group of youth from Gaonkarwada met Sesa manager D K Trusti and asked that two pumps should be installed at the earliest for pumping out water from the settling pond, as they feared a repetition of Saturday's disaster.

Aldona MLA Dayanand Narvekar also visited Gaonkarwada and spoke to affected villagers. "The Goa government is irresponsible with regard to safety of people living in the mining belt. It will be very difficult to make up for the losses suffered," he said.

Former Mulgao sarpanch Tulsidas Parab, along with 57 villagers, lodged a complaint at the Bicholim police station asking for action against errant mining company.

"The mining ore reject is dumped with very little protection to prevent the material from leaching into water bodies and fields. It is a great loss to fresh water life," Parab said.

In a press release, Sesa Resources stated: 'We must say that due to incessant rains of about 200 mm in about eight hours during the last three days, the bund of the settling pond breached and water has flown in to the adjoining areca-nut plantation and paddy fields. This has occured despite taking best mine management practices. The matter is being technically investigated for future mitigating measures in all mines of Sesa. The water silted adjoining fields and there was no damage to any human and settlements. The loss is being assessed and the company will not only compensate adequately, but restore the agricultural lands to their original condition. Company is taking adequate steps to repair the breach and other necessary precautionary measures on an immediate basis."

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