Goa shuts illegal mine after tribal protest (Lead)

March 2nd, 2011 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Panaji, March 2 (IANS) The Goa government has finally shut down an illegal open cast iron ore mine after tribals, who had been protesting for months, laid siege to the office of the director of mines for 10 hours.

The opposition has congratulated the agitating tribals for setting a new trend in taking the battle against Goa’s uncontrolled and illegal mining to its logical conclusion.

About 200 tribals surrounded Director of Mines Arvind Lolienkar for more than 10 hours in his Panaji office Tuesday, asking him to order closure of the illegal mine operated by Devpan Devadongor Iron and Manganese Private Limited at Cavrem, about 75 km from Panaji.

The deadlock between the tribals and the state government over the illegal operation of the mine broke late Tuesday night after the state pollution control board sealed the mining company’s operational premises.

“For months we have been shouting and protesting that ore was being illegally extracted. Even Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, who is also the mines minister, did not stop the illegal mining,” one of the protestors, Ramesh Velip, told IANS.

“They have not only been mining illegally, but have also posted hoodlums and bouncers at the mining sites to threaten us,” added his colleague Nilesh Gaonkar.

Protestors from Cavrem, including elderly men and women, almost all of whom are tribals and depend on the forest land and agricultural produce for their survival, Tuesday surrounded mines director Lolienkar, asking him to order the illegal mine shut at Devdongor, which means “God’s hill”.

“We don’t even pluck a leaf from that mountain. How can we allow a mining firm to swallow it entirely? Our spirits live there,” said a 67-year-old woman wishing not to be named.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Laxmikant Parsenkar congratulated the agitating tribals for their success in closing the illegal mine.

“The manner in which they protested is a trendsetter. Other agitators must emulate them in their battle against illegal mining, which is done with the support of this government,” Parsenkar said.

Illegal and unchecked mining is a sensitive issue in Goa, with both social groups and the opposition repeatedly voicing their concern over the issue.

According to data submitted in the Goa assembly, ore worth Rs.4,000 crore was illegally mined and exported out of the Goa to countries like China, Japan and Romania.

Leader of opposition Manohar Parrikar has said nearly 18 percent of Goa’s total 40 million mining output comprises illegally mined ore.

He has also accused the chief minister and several of his cabinet ministers of being hand-in-glove with the illegal mining mafia.

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