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Economy Sep 5, 2011

How Goa’s illegal ore miners are in league with CM Kamat

By Raman Kirpal

A Goa minister buys two lakh square metres of land in a village and starts threatening neighbours to part with theirs. He wants to mine ore. An MLA starts digging his own agricultural land for ore. Before he is slapped a fine for illegal mining, he has already dispatched over Rs 4 crore worth of ore - and he is fined Rs 1.72 crore. Several mining leases have expired, but digging continues unabated even as Chief Minister Digambar Kamat sits on the files.

How is Kamat complicit in the various illegal mining scams in his state? Are these sins of omission or commission? And what is the scale of these scams?

A conservative estimate made by Firstpost on the basis of official production and export data and environmental clearances put the figure at Rs 800 crore. Former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar alleges that 20 percent of the mining in the state is illegal and the money involved is no less than Rs 4,000 crore.

But the man at the centre of it all is Digambar Kamat, who has been mines minister for 12 years running. According to insiders, he has been actively aiding companies that are in contravention of the law through various means.

Kamat has done this by two means: by reviving mining leases that failed to apply for renewals in time after a new law came into being in 1987. And two, by creating a new class of mining "contractors" who are not the actual mine operators (and hence not amenable to action under the Act).

The law Kamat has helped undermine is the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987, which ended the previous Title Concessions (TCs) given to miners when Goa was a Portuguese colony.

Under the 1987 Act, all the title Concessionaires (Sesa, Dempo, Salgaocar, Chowgule, Timblo, et al) were expected to apply for leases within a year, failing which their leases would lapse and be time-barred.

Says Goa's Director, Mines, Arvind D Loliyakar: "The deadline for the application (for renewing leases) was 1987-88 and it was time-barred. Anybody can file the application after the deadline, but we are not entertaining them. Applications filed in 1996 were not condoned. It was time-barred. Who would like to go behind bars?''

However, Firstpost has learnt that Kamat personally entertained applications for renewals of leases filed as late as 1996 and 2000. Ten applications for renewal were filed in 1996 and two applications in 2000. Kamat condoned delays in two cases and has kept the remaining eight applications "under process." This means his administration is considering condoning the remaining cases, too.

Dumps of Iron ore ready to be shipped at Mormugao port. Photo: Raman Kirpal/Firstpost

In one 'condoned' case, Kamat handed over three mines of the late Zoiram Neogui to a Congress man, Dinar P Kamat Tarcar. Tarcar runs these mines through his company Minescape Earth Movers Pvt Ltd.

In the second condoned case, operator Magnum Minerals is extracting iron ore from Maina mines, whose application for the renewal of lease was filed in 2000 on behalf of the late owner Voicunta Canecar (Kadnekar).

Interestingly, Zoiram Neogui's application was filed in 1996, but Dinar Tarcar appeared as attorney for all the legal heirs of Zoiram and argued that the delay be condoned in 2005, when the China market was hot. Kamat condoned the delay on two grounds. First, the delay was because of a family crisis due to the death of Zoiram. And second, the government of Goa was taking a liberal approach to condoning delays.

Listen to former Goa CM, Manohar Parrikar respond to opposition allegations on mining activities in Goa.

Dinar Tarcar, who had lost the last Assembly election on a Congress ticket, does not designate himself as a mine operator. He is the "contractor" for four mines. Kamat has originated a tribe of "contractors", many of whom are not registered and have no locus standi under the law.

In this new class of "contractor" miners, Kamat's Urban Development Minister Joaquim Alemao tops the list. He is a self-styled contractor and calls himself Managing Director of Raisa Mining Services (named after his daughter). And his office address is 1/B, First Floor, Commerce House, Luis de Miranda Road, Margao, Goa, 403601. He has several mines on contract in South Goa.

With his eyes on mining, Joaquim Alemao boughttwo lakh sq metres of land in village Maina in South Goa. His land borders a farmhouse owned by a villager, Cheryl D'Souza, 43. Cheryl says Alemao is forcing her to sell her land for Rs 40 crore!

Cheryl with her daughter Aki, who are fighting Digambar Kamat's Minister Joaquim Alemao. The latter wants them to sell their farmhouse to him. Photo: Raman Kirpal/Firstpost

"The iron ore here is of high grade and he wants to do mining here, but I have resisted selling my land to him so far,'' Cheryl says. Her husband, Tony Sanfrancisco, was electrocuted in an accident in 2006. She, her 85-year-old mother Dora, and her 11-year-old daughter Aki live in the farmhouse with four women servants. She cremated her husband in the farmhouse itself to deter Alemao from forcible acquisition of her land.

"There is not a young couple who can survive like us. Everybody is forced to sell the land. I am so disillusioned with the whole lot of them now. I see no hope,'' says Cheryl.

Joaquim Alemao's defence: "I am a contractor. I am not a miner."

Another Congressman, who allegedly abets illegal mining in his constituency, is Vishwajit Rane. During the September 2010 by-election for the Valpoi constituency in Sattari taluka, the BJP singled out Rane for illegal mining activity.

The story of greed doesn't end here. In 2008, a team of experts led by Mines Director Arvind Loliyakar went to Corgao, North Goa, for an inspection. They discovered that a Congress ally and close aide of Kamat, Nationalist Congress Party MLA Jitendra Deshprabhu, had begun digging up his own agricultural field in the hope of extracting iron ore.

Instead of booking him under illegal mining, Loliyakar made a request to Digambar Kamat to issue him a show-cause notice. But for three years, Deshprabhu was allowed to continue with the illegal mining. In January 2011, media protests forced the Kamat government to slap him with a fine of Rs 1.72 crore. But by then Deshprabhu had already mined and sold about 52,360 metric ton of iron ore worth Rs 4.18 crore. Under the law the fine is 10 times the illegal benefit - it should have been closer to Rs 50 crore.

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by Raman Kirpal

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