Supreme Court Cancels All Iron Ore Mining Leases In Goa

The top court ordered the Goa government to grant leases afresh.

A worker holds a handful of iron ore pellets at an iron ore mine in Poltava, Ukraine.
A worker holds a handful of iron ore pellets at an iron ore mine in Poltava, Ukraine.

The Supreme Court today quashed all the 88 iron ore mining leases renewed by the Goa government, an order that impacts billionaire Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Group the most.

A bench headed by Justice Madan Lokur ordered that no mining activity in the state will continue after March 15. The top court ordered that the Goa government will have to grant the leases afresh through auctions.

The Supreme Court judgement comes on a plea filed by non-government organisation Goa Foundation represented by lawyer Prashant Bhushan. The petitioners had alleged that mining undertaken through these leases was illegal.

Goa was once the country’s largest exporter of low-grade iron ore. The Supreme Court order will impact 20 million tonnes a year capacity, more than a quarter of which is operated by the Vedanta Group. The company was allocated additional 3 MTPA in the coastal state. A company spokesperson declined to comment, saying it would react after getting a copy of the Supreme Court verdict.

In October 2012, the apex court suspended all iron ore mining and transportation in the state, following a report submitted by the Justice MB Shah Commission, which found that millions of tonnes of iron ore was mined illegally. In 2015, the state government renewed 88 mining leases owned by the same holders accused of illegal mining.

“In 2010, the Supreme Court had held that all the mining leases in Goa had completed 50 years in 2007 and therefore they had become invalid and now only fresh mining leases can be given and fresh environmental clearances would be required,” Bhushan told BloombergQuint. “Instead of doing that, just one week before the new mining act came into force, which was in January 2015, the Goa government renewed leases of 88 mines which the Supreme Court had already declared illegal. Yet they renewed it to avoid this auction.”