Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mining plans are now accesible under RTI

Information on mining plans for mining leases operating in Goa approved by the Regional Controller of Mines will now be freely available to the public as per recent decision (7th June 2010) of the Central Information Commission (CIC).
Earlier the Regional Controller had been routinely rejecting applications for mining plans in respect of individual mining leases on the grounds that the commercial interest of the lessees might be compromised if information in these plans ended up in the hands of rivals. Thus several applications for copies of mining plans in Goa had been rejected by the Regional Controller on the grounds that these could not be disclosed under Sections 11 (1), 8 (1) (d) and 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act.
Several appeals were filed before the CIC against such orders. On 5th February this year, the CIC sought assistance from the Ministry of Mines to settle the matter. The necessary clarifications were provided to the Information Commission by the Ministry of Mines in March 2010. The Ministry of Mines held that the following parts of the mining plan of any mining lease could be disclosed by Public Information Officers under the Right to Information Act:
a. The general information, location and accessibility of the mine as given by the mine operator in chapter 1 and chapter 2 of the mining plan.

b. Information about mine drainage, mineral rejects and disposal of wastes and other information provided in Chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9 of part A of the mining plan.

c. The Environment Management Plan provided in Chapter 11 of Part B of the mining plan.

The CIC endorsed the stand of the Ministry of Mines in a two page order passed on 7th June which has now been posted on the Ministry of Mines website.

The Ministry of Mines has been advised by the Information Commissioner to have all its public authorities put up the various discloseable parts of the mining plans on their respective websites so that citizens do not have to file repeated RTI queries in the matter. Time of two months has been given to carry out this decision.

In the meanwhile the Goa Foundation recommends that all those who filed applications under RTI for information about mining plans should now file fresh applications for the information permitted by the CIC. The information that can be disclosed would cover most information about the mine, its approved dump management plan and environment management plan.

The applicant should also request for the relevant maps which are annexed to these chapters. The Goa Foundation is willing to assist any person in this process.

Dr. Claude Alvares

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