A Bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, allowed transportation of mined ore lying at various sites in Goa.
The verdict was delivered on a plea of Chowgule and Company, a mining firm. "There is no doubt that the ownership of the ore is that of the party that has raised it. The ore is permitted to be transported on payment of royalty. We see no reason why the owners not be allowed to transport their own ore," it said and added, all such transportation be completed within six months from today (January 30).
In 2018, the apex court quashed the iron ore mining leases of 137 companies, renewed in Goa in 2015. The court banned mining and transportation of ore and asked the Centre and Goa to grant fresh environmental clearances.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Chowgule and Company, said the legislative policy was to grant six months to remove mineral ore extracted from the date of expiry or sooner of termination of the lease term.
"Taking into consideration the policy, it's necessary that the lease-holders be allowed to transport the ore already mined by them," Rohatgi said.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing NGO Goa Foundation, contested the argument. "If the permission is granted to transport this ore, it will amount to giving a premium for illegal activity of the leaseholder," contended Bhushan.
"The appellants/mining lease-holders would be permitted to transport the royalty paid on ore/mineral from the jetties/stockyard or pit-heads on the basis of the valid transit permits issued by the competent authority of the state government," said the court
The companies had sought permission to transport ore mined prior to March 15, 2018 and which was lying either at the stockyard or at the pithead.
The Ministry of Environment and Forest had kept in abeyance the environment clearances granted to 139 mines (actually 137 mines - the figure of 139 on account of some duplication) in Goa by September 14, 2012 order.
The high court had set aside the decision of Goa on March 21, 2018, permitting transportation of royalty paid iron ore. It held the state government should take decision regarding its ownership rights, as a custodian of the mineral resources, and regarding its power to take possession, to sell and dispose of iron ore in question and use the proceeds for public purpose.
The mining firms had prayed for permission to load the mined ore on barges and vessels, which were royalty paid, to be transported to their destinations.
( With inputs from IANS )