Panaji: Contradicting Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat's claim that there was no illegal mining in the state, the Union Mines Ministry has confirmed illegalities in nearly 50 percent of the operational mines.

In a letter, dated October 25, Joint Secretary, Mines G Srinivas told state Mines Secretary S Kumaraswamy to shore up measures to curb illegal mining in the state, rocked by a mega illegal mining scam, which the opposition has pegged at Rs 25,000 crore.

"Taken on a mine level basis, 44 mines had had exceeded the said 20 percent target production limits," Srinivas has said in his letter. Goa has nearly 100 operational open cast iron ore mines.

The letter confirming illegal and excessive mining in Goa comes close on the heels of constant denials by Kamat - the Minister of Mines for 12 years - that illegal mining is marginal.

The Congress led coalition government in Goa has come under fire from the opposition over the scam.

The Union Mines Ministry has also asked Goa's department of mines and geology (DMG) to conduct special field trips to establish whether mining in Goa's 100 odd operational mines is being conducted in accordance with the provisions of the forest conservation laws.

Anti mining agitators have complained that a majority of the mining operations fringing forest and wild life sanctuaries in Goa are brazenly flouting environment and forest norms.

"The Ministry is of the view that mining operations should take place only with appropriate clearances, including, wherever required, under Forest (Conservation) Act 1980. In order to ensure compliance, you may like to issue directions to field units of the DMG to undertake the requisite inspections including follow up earlier inspections, so that there are no violations in this regard," Srinivas wrote.

"The DMG may also simultaneously prepare a list of such mining leases that have sought renewal but are pending environment and forest clearances and are operating under deemed extension, to ensure that such mines adhere to a mining plan," he said.

The Union Mines Ministry has also asked the state government to keep track and maintain an inventory of low grade iron ore reject dumps, which in the recent past were being illegally excavated and exported to China, which had opened markets for  low grade iron ores to fuel its infrastructure projects.

To check largescale transportation of illegal ore, the Union Ministry has also asked the state to evolve a system of transit passes during transportation to ensure that the ores being ferried were legitimately extracted.

"In respect of operating mines, since an approved mining plan document is available with the state government, it is also necessary for the state government to introduce a check on the source of the ore and to introduce a system for allowing movement of minerals only through issue of transit passes after ensuring that not only royalty is paid for the mineral sought to be transported, but also after ensuring that the total minerals moved are accounted through the approved mining plan," the letter said.

Goa exported 54 million tonnes of iron ore in the last fiscal.

(Agencies)