MAC: Mines and Communities

The emperor is stripped naked of his clothes

Published by MAC on 2011-10-10
Source: Goa Chronicle, Firstpost, statement (2011-10-10)

Vedanta guilty of illegal mining, admits political donations

In August 2011, Vedanta's primary iron ore mining subsidiary, Sesa Goa, was cited in an official report as one of the companies found to have been mining illegally in the state of Karnataka. See: India's Karnataka assaulted by "Iron Fist" - Report

Now, the Goa Chronicle has exposed the extent of Vedanta-Sesa Goa's illegal mining, and its funding of political parties in the southern Indian state.

Much of the information on which the newspaper's allegations are based comes directly from the company itself, as well as from state government investigations.

Hot on the heels of these revelations, the central government's Ministry of Environment and Forests has also found Sesa Goa's "experts" guilty of concealing, or mis-representing, vital information in its environmental impact assessment of the Pirna mine.

Consequently - and in an unusal step- the mine's permit has been withdrawn.

Nostromo Research adds: Vedanta's Resources plc's current annual report (2011, page 79)  states the Board’s policy as  “that neither Vedanta nor any of its subsidiary companies may, under any circumstances, make donations or contributions  to political organisations within the UK or EU”.

The report then goes on to announce that the “Group made political donations in India of US$0.02 million during FY 2011 (2010; US$3.66 million), either through a trust or directly in respect of the Indian general election. The Board believes this will encourage and strengthen the democratic process in India” (sic).

This statement appears to violate the intent of India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act of 1976 which states clearly (Chapter 11 page 3) that: “No foreign contribution shall be accepted by any candidate for election”, and which was amended – and tightened – on May 1 this year, so as to place “any payment of a political nature” in the category “prohibited to accept foreign contributions”.

Editorial note:  US$1 = 50 Indian Rupees; 1 lakh/lac  = 100,000; 1 crore = 10 million

BJP, Congress, NCP, MGP, SGF, Shiv Sena took political donations from Sesa Goa

Goa Chronicle

24 September 201

GoaChronicle.com brings you another shocking expose in which our investigations and study into the past four years' Annual Reports of Sesa Goa indicate that it has been making donations to most political parties in Goa.

Could this be the reason why political parties have not aggressively pursued the issues of illegal mining in the state and more importantly have other mining companies also indulged in political donations?

GoaChronicle.com investigates...

In our recent expose on illegal mining in Goa ‘Mining Department Records: Estimated Rs 6100 Crore Illegal Mining since 2008' we had exposed the extent of illegal mining in the Talukas [districts] of Sattari and Sanguem and even systematically provided details from government records on the extent of illegal mining done by various mining companies; either through going above the Environmental Clearance Quantity Capping permissible, or whether it was clearances from the wildlife or forest government authorities at the state and Centre. Sesa Goa was one of the companies that featured in that report.

Details of their illegal mining are mentioned below:

Sesa Goa in its mines, TC No 6/55 had not obtained its Environment Clearance as well from Wildlife Board, yet it extracted 7,45,562 tons in 2008-09, 6,65,976 tons in 2009-10 and 5,12,378 tons in 2010-2011 (up to January). If we put a figure to that extraction of iron ore it is another shocking amount of over Rs 769 crore.

In its mine in TC No 28/51 the company extracted 26,732 tons above the Environmental Clearance Quantity Capping which amounts to over Rs 10 crore.

Sesa Goa in its mine in TC No 69/51 extracted over 36, 46,214 tons of iron ore and it did not even have the Environmental Clearance under the Wildlife Protection Act. It is a shocking amount of Rs 1458 crore according to market estimates in the past three years.

Sesa Goa alone has an astonishing over 5.6 million tons of iron-ore extracted illegally, amounting to over Rs 2237 crore worth (We compute the cost of iron-ore at Rs 4000 per ton, as we had taken in our expose).

Sesa Goa is not the only company to indulge in mining which in some cases has been illegal and while there are growing speculations of the political patronage towards illegal mining in the state, it is shocking to note that in the past four years' Annual Reports, Sesa Goa has been donating money to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Goa Pradesh Congress Committee, Nationalist Congress Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Save Goa Front and Shiv Sena.

There appears to be donations going to political parties every alternate year; while in 2007-08 Sesa Goa had given donations to political parties, in 2008-09 they had not done so. In 2009-10 they have again given donations to political parties.

Of the list of the political parties that have received political donations from Sesa Goa, BJP has received most of the donation amounting to Rs 1.13 crore in the past four years. Goa Pradesh Congress Committee has received a total of Rs 58 lacs, while NCP got Rs 5 lacs; MGP got Rs 7 lacs, Save Goa Front 5 lacs and Shiva Sena Rs 2 lacs.

All the above data has been procured through the Annual Reports of Sesa Goa that were available. GoaChronicle.com has also uploaded the relevant pages in which these details appear from those reports.

The question that it opens is straight. Sesa Goa...has come under scrutiny for illegal mining like many under mining companies in the state; it throws open a Pandora box on the possibilities of political parties supporting mining companies on account and not raising an alarm to illegal mining in the state before.

It also opens door to the question on the report to be tabled by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is headed by the Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar, whose party has been taking political donations from Sesa Goa and maybe others; those facts still have to come to light.

GPCC President also in his statement to the local media said that Congress party or its members had no role to play in the illegal mining in the state. That is strange considering that they too received political donations.

Similarly, NCP recently announced that the government must take strict action against companies indulging in illegal mining; they too have been on the receiving end of the political donations from the Sesa Group. Same is the case with smaller parties such as Save Goa Front, MGP and Shiv Sena.

Political parties have received a total sum of Rs 1.9 crore as donations from just one mining company, could not a question be asked if there were other companies also doing the same?


Environment Clearance to Sesa Goa Mine cancelled by MOEF on grounds of concealment of data

Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment

28 September 2011

The Ministry of Environment and Forest today (28-9-2011) informed the National Green Tribunal, that it has decided to cancel the environment clearance for the Pirna Iron ore Mines of Sesa Goa (a part of Vedanta Group) located in Pirna and Nadora Villages, in Bardez Taluk, North Goa on grounds of deliberate concealment of information in the Environment Impact Assessment Report.

This is among the rare instances where the MoEF has invoked Clause 8 of the EIA Notification, 2006 which stipulates that ‘deliberate concealment and/ or submission of false and misleading data which is material to screening and scoping shall make the application liable for rejection'.

The order of the MoEF dated 29-8-2011 states:

"Whereas Sesa Goa Ltd had submitted a deficient EIA Report as accepted by the Project Proponent during public hearing held on 29-07-2011 as well as their withdrawal request made to the Ministry on 2-08-2011 and where as accepting this deficiency on the part of the company shows that it is an concealment of data in respect to vital parameters of the EIA Study for appraisal process and taking decision in respect to grant of environment clearance to the said mining project....

...Now therefore in view of the following, the Ministry of Environment and Forests have decided to invoke the provisions contained in Clause 8 (vi) of the EIA Notification, 2006 and herevy cancels the environment clearance granted to the Pirna Iron Ore Mine ..at Village Pirna and Nadora Taluk, Bardez, District, North Goa with immediate effect'.

The Environment clearance granted to the mine was challenged before the National Environment Appellate Authority *in 2009 by local group called Pirna Naroda Nagrik Kruti Samiti (Pirna Nadora Nagrik Kruti Samiti Vs Union of India Appeal No. 5. 2011 before NGT)

The NEAA* in 2009 stayed the Environment Clearance on the ground that the Ministry of Environment and Forest failed to take into account the total opposition of the local people against the proposed mine. The NEAA directed that the Ministry of Environment and Forests should constitute a Sub Committee to visit the site and examine the reason for the large scale opposition.

During the site visit, in addition to local people, the Forest Department as well as the Agriculture Department raised its objection to the adverse impact due to the proposed mine. The Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment while reappraising the project did not look into the objections of the Forest and agriculture Department and rather recommended for approval. The NEAA thereafter directed the MoEF to again reconsider the Approval based on objections by the two departments. Subsequently, the case was transferred to the newly set up National Green Tribunal.

Before the National Green Tribunal, Sesa Goa stated that they want to withdraw the application seeking Environment Clearance in view of some deficiency in the EIA Report. However, the National Green Tribunal on 10-8-2011 directed that the Ministry of Environment and Forest should take a decision on the course of action in view of the acceptance by SESA Goa of deficiency in the EIA report.

In view of the order of the NGT, the MoEF considered the issue of deficiency in the EIA report and decided to cancel the clearance.

* The National Environment Appellate Authoity was the predececessor body to the National Green Tribunal, which came into operation in October 2010, pledgd to uphold citizens "right to life"

Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment
N-71 LGF Greater Kailash-I, New Delhi-110048
Ph-91-11-49537774, 49536656, 9810044660


Goa CM Kamat likely to lose job over illegal mining

By Raman Kirpal

Firstpost

28 September 2011

Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat's days are probably numbered. As the state's covert champion of illegal mining for 12 years - that's how long he has held on to the mines portfolio - Firstpost's expose on the Goa mining scam could cost him his job, thanks to the interest Sonia Gandhi is now taking in the matter.

Goan activist Ramon Velip
Goan activist Ramon Velip Photo: Raman Kirpal/Firstpost

Firstpost broke the story on Goa's illegal mining scandals on 5 September, and the Hindustan Times and various TV channels followed up the story over the last few days, setting the stage for a political intervention at the highest level.

On Wednesday, JS Brar, the person in charge of Goa in the All India Congress Committee (AICC), left for Goa to take stock of Kamat's wrongdoing. He is expected to submit his report to Sonia Gandhi by Friday and the chances are that she will seek a change in the leadership. Given the time and effort the party has expended in making a villain out of the BJP in the Karnataka mining scandals that ultimately led to the ouster of BS Yeddyurappa and the arrest of Janardhana Reddy, Sonia may have no other choice.

Talking to Firstpost over the telephone, Brar said the AICC had received several complaints in regard to illegal mining against Kamat. "I am going to Goa to confirm the ground realities in the state."

In our 5 September report, (Yeddy, Reddy, Kamat? Goa's Rs 800 cr mining scam is next), Firstpost exposed how Kamat was in league with top mining companies in the state and how the miners were blatantly indulging in illegal mining under his watch.

Another Firstpost report (How Goa's illegal ore miners are in league with CM Kamat) revealed how his ministers were running the mining business. A Firstpost reader complimented the publication for the gutsy piece and said we had "done more in this one article than the Goan media has managed in totality in the 50 years since decolonisation."

However, Firstpost would have gotten nowhere without the evidence and support of the people who are fighting Goa's illegal mining cartels from the frontlines.

In this story, we will highlight the names of some of the people who are fighting the miner-politicians of Goa in their backyards. If Brar wants to deliver true justice, he must meet them to get the right picture.

Our first fighter is Dr Claude Alvares, who runs a non-profit organisation called Goa Foundation and is leading the legal battle against illegal mining on several fronts. He is a ‘walking' encyclopedia on illegal mining and has a databank which should have sent Kamat packing a long time ago. His databank categorically brings out the roles of top miners in the state, including Vedanta, Timlos, Dinar Tarcar and Salgaocars.

Alvares is still a well-known name in Goa. But there are many unknown fighters who are battling the moneypower of the mining lobbies. Here are some of them.

Rama Velip, a tribal from village Colome in south Goa, had caught the manager of Kamat's minister Joaquim Alemao for carrying illegal mining activities in his village. His small village, which is about 6 sq km in area, has 23 mining leases and three of them are still active. He is fighting a legal battle against the odds, and the miners working in this village have slapped criminal cases against him and 20 other villagers for allegedly trespassing on their property.

Another crusader is Ramesh Gauns, a teacher in the morning...and a fighter against illegal mining in his spare time. Gauns, 59, lives in North Goa. After his school hours, he moves with a camera to capture every violation of the law by illegal miners. His house is a repository of RTI replies on mining. He doesn't run any NGO. He doesn't represent any environmental group. He is a one-man army unleashing himself against the miners.

Prabhudesai, 44, is an engineer who was part of the team that planned and executed the Dubai international airport. In 2002, he chucked up his job and returned to his native Goa to spend the rest of his life exploring nature. He found himself fighting the miners instead.

Adopting a village called Caurem in south Goa, Prabhudesai found himself fighting the illegal miners when they drilled a hole through a hill that supplied water to the village through natural springs. The villagers were up in arms. Prabhudesai galvanised them to gherao the officer concerned and didn't leave his office till he issued orders to stop the drilling (Click here for his story).

Cheryl D'Souza, a 43-year-old widow in Village Maina in south Goa, cremated her husband on her own land in order to deter the illegal miners from taking it over (Click here for full story).

It is from such courageous fighters that Brar needs to get his story of Goa's illegal mining scandals.


She cremated her hubby on her land to thwart Goa's miners

By Raman Kirpal

Firstpost

28 September 2011

Goa's illegal miners have been challenged by scores of intrepid citizens. This is the story of Cheryl D'Souza, who has sustained a fight against illegal miners, including a minister in the Digambar Kamat government, for several years now.

Cheryl D'Souza with her daughter
Cheryl D'Souza with her daughter. Photo: Raman Kirpal/
Firstpost

Cheryl is a 43-year-old widow in village Maina in south Goa. Eighteen years ago, when she was 25, she had bought a huge tract of land (seven lakh sq metres) to live a rural life. Married to Anthony Sanfrancisco ("Tony" to friends), they made their money in a furniture export business. They lived an ideal rural life till the politicians started coveting their iron-ore-rich land.

As long as Tony was alive, the miners did not harass them, but in 2006 he was electrocuted in an accident. The harassment began soon after.

"When Tony died, it just came full in my face. I had never seen people like these. When good words (to get me to sell the land) didn't work, the threats started. Joaquim Alemao (Minister for Urban Development) bought two-lakh square metres of land bordering my land from a farmer at throwaway prices. And then he put pressure on me to buy my land."

But Cheryl refused and faced veiled threats. "When I refused, he turned around and told neighbours: ‘Is this woman mad? I don't want to do anything to her. She is sitting there with the kid.'"

Cheryl, who lives with her 85-year-old mother Dora and 11-year-old school-going daughter Aki, keeps dogs, including two Rottweilers, to defend her land from attack by the miners.

But her strongest act was her decision to cremate her husband in 2006 close to their farmhouse!

"They (Joaquim Alemao and other miners) did not expect that I would virtually sit (over my husband's body) and say cremate. First, I am Catholic. Second, people are so scared of having this (cremation) done on their own ground. I had taken permission from the Bishop. I categorically asked Joaquim Alemao's cronies: 'My husband's grave is here... My daughter is here... Do you want me to run away?'"

So what did they say to that? "They promised that they would make a beautiful temple on my husband's grave after I sell my farmhouse to them. And they offered Rs 40 crore for my land!"

Cheryl was stunned by the price offer. But then hers is the last bit of green left in her village. "I got several calls threatening gang-rape of my daughter and to kill me. It's easy for me to take Rs 40 crore and go, but I can't take away this farmhouse from my daughter. She has associated her father with the farm. She was six when he died. You can't take away her father and her home," says Cheryl.

When Joaquim Alemao began cutting down the trees nearby, Cheryl went from government office to office. Alemao had no permission to cut trees. She managed to stop him.

Then came another miner - Tarcar. His mine is a stone's throw from Cheryl's house. She protested along with her mother. Both of them were put in jail on charges of carrying arms. They spent one day in jail. The judge, however, took one look at Cheryl's 83-year-old mother (in 2008) and mockingly asked the police ‘what terrorist are you talking of?'

Cheryl's furniture export business ended with her husband's death. She is now into a private job. She doesn't know how it is going to end. Her daughter is 11 and she may be pushed around for the rest of her life.

"They (the miners) are greedy. They will never give up. But I don't have a choice," Cheryl says. She has constructed a 4.5 km long wall around her farmhouse. "These miners call this wall my folly. But I have conveyed to them that we do not sell out our `dead' cheap,'' says Cheryl.


The curious case of the Pirna mines

by Kanchi Kohli 

Mylaw.net

10 October 2011

The National Green Tribunal ("the NGT"), has been hearing a range of cases since July 4, 2011, and has now started pronouncing its first set of final orders. Many of these cases are linked to those transferred to the NGT in October 2010, when the National Environment Appellate Authority ("the NEAA") ceased operations. The case related to environmental clearance received by Sesa Goa (a part of the Vedanta Group) for forty-three hectares of iron ore mines located in Pirna and Nadora villages, in Bardez Taluk in North Goa, is one of these.

This June 9, 2009 approval ("the approval") was obtained as mandated by the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 ("the EIA Notification"). It was brought to the notice of the NEAA through an appeal filed by the Pirna Naroda Nagrik Kruti Samiti, which eventually became Appeal No. 5. of 2011 before the NGT. When approval was first challenged before the NEAA, it was on the grounds that there had been total opposition to the project when the mandatory public hearing was held for it. Despite this, the Expert Appraisal Committee ("the EAC") granted the project approval without adequate consideration to the minutes of the public hearing which had recommended the project. Further, Sesa Goa denied that there had been complete opposition, submitting that fifty-three people had been in support of the project.

The NEAA in its order dated May 10, 2010, directed the EAC (housed within the Ministry of Environment and Forests ("the MoEF")) to examine the reasons behind the widespread public opposition to the iron ore mines. As per procedure under the EIA Notification, various thematic EACs, such as those relating to mining, industry, infrastructure, and river valley projects are to assess the impact of proposed projects and accordingly recommend, reconsider, or reject environmental clearance. The NEAA order which stayed the construction of the mine asked the EAC to also examine its impact on agriculture, horticulture, school children, health, habitation, and river and ground water.

Other than the fact that there was large-scale local opposition to the mine, one of the crucial grounds in this case related to the invocation of Section 8(vi) of the EIA Notification, which relates to the possibility of rejecting an environment clearance in case the project authority has deliberately concealed information or provided false data.

"Deliberate concealment and/or submission of false or misleading information or data which is material to screening or scoping or appraisal or decision on the application shall make the application liable for rejection, and cancellation of prior environmental clearance granted on that basis. Rejection of an application or cancellation of a prior environmental clearance already granted, on such ground, shall be decided by the regulatory authority, after giving a personal hearing to the applicant, and following the principles of natural justice."

This clause is rarely made operational by the MoEF despite many challenges stating the need for it. The appellants, through their advocates Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Chaudhary, had interestingly relied on the report of the Sub-committee of the EAC ("the Sub-committee") which had carried out a site inspection following the NEAA order.

The Sub-committee's observations were based not just on objections raised by the affected local people, but also the representatives of the Forest Department and the Agriculture Department. In fact, the submission of the Agriculture Department dated June 26, 2010 clearly states, "Considering the major environmental damage that the mine shall cause to Pirna and Nadora Village, the damage that would be caused to available ground water availability and the major threat of floods to Chapora river that is posed by excavation in mines in Pirna and Nadora village; It is suggested that the request for permission for mining in the area may not be considered."

These observations are very significant in this case as they pointed to the need for fresh and revised information which should have otherwise formed the basis of the EIA report. Submissions of the appellants point out that the EAC Sub-committee's report states that the buffer zone of the mine comprises both unclassified forests as well as reserved forests. This is contrary to the categorical statement made in Para 1.1.2 of the EIA report prepared by Bhagavati Ana Labs Limited that there are no forests of Reserved Forest, or Protected Forest, or Unclassified categories within a radius of ten kilometres of the study area. The Sub-committee also observed that the fauna of the area included many species scheduled in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 such as Indian bison, barking deer, peacock, and panther. Further, elephants had also been seen near the Pira Nadora area. On page 8, the EIA Report only selectively mentioned that the area had 'Rat, Indian Rat, Common Mouse, Jackal, Common Mongoose, Rhesus Macaque, India Hare', which changed the wildlife profile of the area significantly.

The appellants brought to the notice of the NEAA that the EAC, while reappraising the project and deciding to recommend it for approval, did not look into the objections of the two departments or consider the various instances of concealment which had been brought out by its own Sub-committee. The NEAA then directed the MoEF to again reconsider the approval based on the objections of the two departments. Further hearings in this case, like many others, had to be held up because from October 18, 2010 up to July 4, 2011, the NEAA did not exist and the NGT did not function.

Interestingly, when the matter was heard by the NGT, Sesa Goa contended that they wanted to withdraw their application for environment clearance because of some deficiency contained in the EIA report. The NGT, on August 10, 2011, directed the MoEF to take a decision on this matter because the company had admitted that the EIA report, based on which approval had been granted, was inadequate and incomplete. On September 28, 2011 the MoEF informed the NGT that it has decided to "cancel" the environment clearance for Sesa Goa's mine.

The MoEF's order dated September 29, 2011, states that the Pirna mine is a "fit case for invoking clause 8(vi) of the EIA notification". The order has now set an important precedent to review all other clearances where such deficiencies have occurred. It is also a chance to reflect on whether this would have remained another untold tale of faultyclearances if it had not been challenged.

Kanchi Kohli works and writes on environment, forest, and biodiversity governance issues. In her writing, she seeks to explore the interface between industrialisation and its impacts on both local communities and ecosystems.


Illegal ore removal sparks fears of mines shutdown in Goa

Press Trust of India (PTI)

10 October 2011

A state of uncertainty looms large in Goa's mining belt, as people fear closure of several mines, which may spell doom for many dependent on this industry in the coastal state.

The mining belt, which runs across seven out of 12 talukas of the state, is prominently dependent on extraction and transportation of ore to earn money.

A total 90-odd leases scattered over these talukas has 20,000 trucks plying between the mining sites and jetties where the ore is dumped into smaller ships which carry it forward to the harbour.

A detailed probe by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has pointed out that almost 50 pc of mining leases have violated norms, which means the ore extracted from them is 'illegal'.

Worst fears are now being expressed that Justice M B Shah Commission, which is investigating into illegal iron ore scam, will recommend shutting down of these illegal mines, unleashing crisis on the people in this belt.

"There were only 5,000 trucks a decade back. But now their number has gone up to 20,000," Prasanna Ghodge, promoter of PVG Group, one of the biggest transporter for Sesa Goa, told PTI.

Ghodge, who has been in this business for last 20 years, say that people are not supporting illegal mining but many of them do not know whether the ore that they carry in their trucks are legal or illegal.

"How are we supposed to know it? Its for the government to decide it. The trucks ply on the mines once they start. The truck owner will not know whether the mine has exceeded its permissible limit or not," he said.

As per a rough estimate, there are at least two lakh people who are dependent on the mining industry. "Imagine what will happen to the coastal belt, if government stops tourists from arriving here. Same thing will happen to rural belt, if mining is stopped," Vinayak Gawas, Dharbandora Taluka Truck Owners Association member, said.

Dharbandora, a newly notified taluka, is one amongst the talukas having maximum density of mining leases.

Admitting that too much of iron ore extraction has spoilt the industry, Govind Sawant, a truck owner and local politician, said there should be ban on any further purchase of trucks in the mining belt.

Each truck costs Rs 15 lakh. "These trucks are useless, if there is no mining. We can't use them for any other activity," he said.

The people who are dependent on mining industry has now decided to have a street protests in Panaji on Wednesday, October 12, when Shah Commission will re-arrive in the state.

Sawant said they will be handing over a memorandum to the Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar seeking their intervention in protecting legal mining industry.

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