The Government has no business to be in business: Ambar Timblo

President of Goa Mineral Ore Exporters’ Association, in a no-holds-barred interview, expresses his views on the proposed Mining Corporation

Firstly, let me clarify that I am not privy to any proposal with regard to the formation of a Mining Corporation in Goa. So, my response to this question is generic and constrained by facts known to me.

Various States in India have had Mining Corporations / State Mining Companies for decades.

The professionalism, competitiveness and thereby efficiency of these entities have been poor, at the very best.

As can be seen by the recent policies and directives of the Central Government, it is clear – ‘The Government has no business to be in business.’

Disinvestment in public undertakings has been expedited, thereby really confirming what has been evident thus far that to survive in an international market base, you need to be competitive and professional.

With respect to the State of Goa, I can muster an opinion that the consideration of a Corporation is being pressed due to various stakeholders such as truck owners, barge owners and other ancillary parties suffering substantially and grossly due to the persistent shut downs being inflicted on the Goan mineral industry by the repetitive petitions of Goa Foundation.

I would, at this point, find it relevant to mention that the home page of the Goa Foundation website credits itself of having achieved their ultimate objective of ensuring end of mining in Goa. Being their mandate, then any approach or attempt to resume mining in Goa will be attempted to be thwarted by Goa Foundation.

I have seen certain statements by Goa Foundation in favour of a Corporation and I see this as nothing but a smokescreen to placate themselves from the damage that they have inflicted on the State.

I take this opportunity to stress certain nuances and variables that will have a bearing on the mandate that any Corporation/State Undertaking may have:

  1. There are certain concessions/leases that are presently the subject matter of various Courts and forums and the rights to operate in these areas are still in the stage of being adjudicated and such position has been confirmed by the State and the Central Government before these forums. Therefore pending such adjudication of areas that are before these forums cannot be considered for allocation by any other means.
  2. Furthermore, under the new legislation brought in by the Central Government, a Mining Lease can only be given to a Corporation/State Undertaking once the process of auctioning of that particular area has failed. Only once it is failed can Corporation/State Government make an application to the Central Government to grant the Corporation a lease. The pre-requisite to any application is the ascertaining of:
  • are there any conflicting rights on the proposed area; and
  • whether the proposed area has sufficient mineral to conduct economic enterprise (which will need to be done by a certified Geology expert).

Assuming that the area is cleared on both these aspects and the auctioning of the area has failed, only then can the Central Government entertain a State Corporation’s request for an application for a lease.

Assuming that the Central Government even permits the allocation of a lease to a Corporation after the failure of the auction, no mining operation can be conducted without an Environmental Clearance, approved Mining Plan and various other statutory compliances. Just because a public sector undertaking is granted mineral right does not absolve it from conducting the same without compliance of various Acts and laws.

It is quite conceivable and in all practicality, it is advisable at this stage, that the Government of Goa, looks at areas that are not in conflict in the State for minerals including but not limited to iron ore and to see in what manner economic activity in the mining industry can be started (initiative); as any attempt to recommence over the last decade has been challenged by Goa Foundation.

As an industry, we welcome such an initiative and would support it in any way that we can. But it is imperative to understand all aspects, that will result is a sustainable enterprise; which was the case for over decades; but now the last 7 years has only created uncertainty and an attraction to knee-jerk solutions, that would only result in benefitting the legal practice and not the mineral or State economy.

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