Anticipating litigation, the Goa government will not share information on the formation of a state government-run mining corporation under the Right to Information Act, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told agitating mining industry workers on Saturday.
Sawant said that Governor PS Sreedharan Pillai had already granted assent to the Goa Mineral Development Corporation Bill, 2021, which was passed in the state legislative assembly in July this year.
“Already before that, we will not give you (information) about what we have formed under RTI. If we give it under RTI, someone will go to court in order to derail the corporation. No one has filed cases against the person who has filed cases against the government (related to mining industry closure). No one is speaking about the case related to closure of mining,” Sawant said.
The Chief Minister also singled out environmentalist Claude Alvares, whose NGO Goa Foundation’s petition has led to the closure of the mining industry in the state, after a judicial commission exposed a Rs 35,000 crore illegal mining scam in the state.
“When he (Alvares) locked our department, people like you should have asked why the office was locked. I filed a case against him. No one speaks about how he is acting against the government by using information obtained under RTI,” Sawant told Ajay Prabhugaonkar, a union leader who has been at the forefront of a movement to restart mining activity in Goa.
The possible formation of the Goa Mineral Development Corporation ahead of the state assembly polls has assumed significance on account of the fact that fresh mining excavation in the state has been shut down since 2018, when the Supreme Court scrapped the renewal of 88 mining leases citing irregularities.
According to the bill, the corporation would be headed by the Chief Minister as the ex-officio chairman and will have top officials including Secretaries in-charge of Finance, Mines and Environment as members. The corporation will also include a lawyer nominated by the state government, two experienced chartered accountants and a government nominated geologist.
The corporation is empowered to obtain mining leases/grants, grant prospecting licenses, etc, under the Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act, 1957 and carry out all mining operations on behalf of the State under the same Act.
The corporation would also conduct other mining allied businesses which includes treatment and harvesting of mining dumps, extraction, transportation, export of ore, apart from executing other related responsibilities.