The Supreme Court has granted time up to end of January, 2021 for the removal of the minerals excavated/mined on or before 15.03.2018 subject to payment of royalties and other charges.
The bench headed by the Chief Justice SA Bobde, observed that the quantity of mineral to be removed by each of the lessees shall be determined by the concerned officials with reference to the records of the Government maintained at the relevant point of time. If within the time stipulated above, the lessees could not remove the mineral, the Government shall invoke the power under Rule 12(1)(hh) of the Minerals (Other than Atomic and Hydro Carbons Energy Minerals) Concession Rules, 2016, the court added.
The bench, also comprising AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramaniam, was considering applications filed by the lessees of manganese/iron ore mines, seeking extension of time for the transportation of the mineral alleged to have been mined before 15.03.2018.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court had allowed the mining companies in Goa to transport all iron ores which were extracted before March 15, 2018 and for which royalty has been paid within six months. In February 2018, the SC had quashed all iron ore mining leases in Goa in Goa Foundation case and had given time till March 15, 2018 to complete their "affairs".
The lessees had raised two grounds in the extension application (1) the delay on the part of the statutory authorities in issuing transit permits for the transportation of the royalty paid ore; and (2) the imposition of lockdown within two months of the judgment of this Court dated 30.01.2020. Goa Foundation, by filing another application, opposed this plea contending that that in terms of Rule 12(1)(hh), the mineral not removed within a period of six calendar months is liable to be confiscated to the Government. They also contended that the ore on which royalty had not already been paid, can never be removed.
"Goa Foundation may be right in contending that the State Government should have invoked Rule 12(1)(hh) to confiscate the mineral allegedly lying at site for the past more than 2½ years. But the difficulty today is that Rule 12(1)(hh) was not pressed into service before this Court, when this Court rendered its judgment dated 30.01.2020. As a result, the judgment dated 30.01.2020 giving six months' time to the lessees to remove the material, has attained finality. If the lessees had removed the material within the six months' period prescribed in the judgment 30.01.2020, Goa Foundation could not have come up with this contention. In fact, the application for clarification/ direction was filed only in September, 2020, after the expiry of six months' period granted by this Court by the judgment dated 30.01.2020.", the bench said while allowing the application filed by lessees. It also added that the contention of the lessees that royalty is payable at the time of removal or consumption, cannot be rejected outright.
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