New Delhi, October 13: The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended till January 31, 2021 the time for mining firms in Goa to transport the royalty paid for iron ore extracted on or before March 15, 2018. The relief was granted on the grounds of nationwide lockdown imposed due to Covid-19 pandemic.

On 30 January, the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde had directed the mining firm Chowgule and Company Private Limited among others to transport the iron ore within a period of six months from the date of judgment. The period of six months was to end on July 30.

The mining firms approached the top court seeking directions for the extension of the transportation period on two grounds, Livemint reported. Firstly, they argued that the statutory authorities had delayed in issuing the transit permit and secondly due to the nationwide lockdown imposed in March within two months from the date of the judgment, the transportation could not be completed.

Allowing the relief sought the top court bench also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said, “The lessees (mining firms) are granted time up to end of January, 2021 for the removal of the minerals excavated/mined on or before March 15, 2018 subject to payment of royalties and other charges.”

The court also asserted that quantity of the mineral ore to be removed shall be in accordance with the records maintained by the government at the relevant point of time. It added that the concerned officials shall verify the quantity removed by each of the lessees.

However, the three-judge clarified that incase the mining firms failed to remove the mineral by 31 January, 2021, then the government is at liberty to invoke its power under Rule 12(1)(hh) of the Minerals (Other than Atomic and Hydro Carbons Energy Minerals) Concession Rules, 2016 and confiscate the mined ore.

The NGO, ”Goa Foundation”, which has been fighting mining firms in courts, had also moved the top court seeking reliefs such as that “the ore on which royalty had not already been paid,” should not be allowed to be removed.

The Bombay high court had quashed the decision taken on March 21, 2018 by the Goa government permitting mining leaseholders to pay royalty on mineral, which was already mined till March 15, 2018 and transport it.

Reversing the high court order, the apex court had taken note of its earlier judgement in which “mining leaseholders were given time to manage their affairs and may continue their mining operations till March 15, 2018.”

The Supreme Court on 7 February 2018 had cancelled 88 iron ore mining leases in Goa. The Supreme Court bench, headed by justice Madan B. Lokur, had held the government’s process of renewing the mining leases of companies to be “in violation of law” and directed the state government to stop all mining operations with effect from March 16, 2018 until fresh mining leases (not fresh renewals or other renewals) are granted and fresh environmental clearances are granted”.

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