Environmental clearance paves the way for Bicholim mines resumption

Vedanta Limited received a nod from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change for the Bicholim Mineral Block in North Goa district, marking a significant step towards the revival of iron ore mining in the state. The approved project encompasses the mining of iron ore up to 3 million tonnes per annum (MTPA), excavation of 25.162 MTPA of waste rock, and the establishment of a 4 MTPA crushing and screening plant within the mine lease area spanning 478.5206 hectares.

The mine spans several villages, including Bicholim, Bordem, Lamgao, Mulgao, Mayem, and Sirigao in Bicholim taluka. The environmental clearance, granted based on detailed deliberations by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on December 26, 2023, is contingent upon compliance with 29 standard conditions for non-coal mining projects. Additionally, 25 project-specific conditions must be adhered to by Vedanta Limited, encompassing court directives, public hearing concerns, implementation of the environment management plan, and measures for wildlife conservation, air and water quality monitoring, and mine reclamation.

Iron ore mining in Goa faced a hiatus in 2012 due to a Supreme Court crackdown on illegal mining. The current clearance allows Vedanta to revive ore production, a significant revenue source for the state. However, the environmental clearance is subject to the outcome of two pending court cases related to the auction process on surveyed numbers. No adverse orders have been issued in these cases to date.

While environmentalists express concerns about potential adverse impacts without proper safeguards, Vedanta Limited proposes a Rs 72-crore environment management plan, along with commitments to protect wildlife and ecology around the mine. The estimated Rs 250-crore mining operations will create direct employment for over 700 people. Having secured approval from the Centre, Vedanta Limited now awaits consent from the State Pollution Control Board to commence mining operations per the stipulated green nod conditions.

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