Panaji: Uncertainty over revival of mining activity in Goa in near future is forcing barge operators to scout for new locations outside the state.

This is evident from the steady flow of applications the Department of Ports, which is authorised to register and regulate vessels, is receiving from barge owners seeking NOC to move out of the coastal state.

Vessels that used to do brisk business by ferrying ore from jetties to harbours when mining trade flourished in the state are now looking for business in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Captain of Ports James Braganza said his department received 20 applications so far and expects the number to rise in coming days.

The iron ore export industry in the state has been reeling under crisis after Justice M B Shah Commission pointed out several illegalities in the mining sector.

The Supreme Court in its recent verdict has halted export and extraction of ore in the state, pending the report of the Centrally Empowered Committee.

All Goa Barge Owners Association (AGBOA) President Atul Jadhav said the industry was going through the worst phase as there is uncertainty looming large over their survival.

With barges berthed at the dockyards waiting for the mining season to begin, the operators are faced with how to repay whopping Rs 335 crore loan they have borrowed from various banks.

"We fear that the banks will start the proceedings to recover the money by taking away our assets," Jadhav said.

Barge owners demanded that the state-run Economic Development Corporation (EDC) should take over their loan liability from banks, giving them a breathing space to repay the outstanding loan.

The Goa government has not reacted to barge owners moving out of Goa but has been working on methods to ease the financial crisis being faced by the industry.

A senior mining department official expressed the need for consolidated efforts from all stakeholders, including state and central government agencies, to salvage state from the current situation.

"The aftermath of stopping mining industry will start showing up in few days time. Mining has been a major backbone of our economy. The cauldron will naturally leave the people dependent on it suffering," he said.


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