Jayanthi Natarajan to arrive in Goa amidst mining controversy


Panaji : Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan is expected to arrive in Goa next week, even as the state government is at loggerheads with the ministry over harvesting of low grade iron ore rejects worth several billion dollars.

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Speaking to IANS Wednesday, Congress MP from the Rajya Sabha Shantaram Naik said Natarajan was scheduled to visit Goa early next week as part of the nationwide exercise by the party to clarify its position on the Rs.1.86 crore coal controversy.

Naik, however, said that Natarajan could make a statement on the issue of mining of dumps, which are laden with more than 700 million tonnes of low-grade ore.

“Jayanthi Natarajan will be here next week and she may make a statement on the issue of iron ore dump mining,” Naik said.

A team of officials from the union ministry for environment and forests (MoEF) is also likely to visit Goa soon to inspect possible illegal mining of dumped iron ore.

The MoEF has been at loggerheads with the Goa government, which is keen on harvesting the ferrous mountains in Goa’s mining belt, which are in essence mountainous heaps of reject ore dumped by mining companies over the decades, not processed in time because of feasibility issues.

A recent boom in iron ore demand and newer technologies have made harvesting of the low-grade ore-rejects easier, according to the Goa government and the mining industry in the state.

While Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar claimed that the state government had the sovereign right to decide whether the dumps should be harvested or not, the MoEF has insisted that an environment clearance from the ministry was mandatory before the dumps, valued at several billion dollars, could be touched.

Natarajan told the Rajya Sabha Tuesday that a team of MoEF officials would be in Goa soon to inspect the mining dump sites to ensure that they had not been harvested.