The main contention of the Petitioners were:
· the Company had concealed several crucial pieces information - the rich biodiversity including 2 ha of natural forests and cashew and coconut plantations in the core and buffer area of the lease area;
· the important archaeological sites 500 m from the mining site; the real impact of the project on the ground water and surface water sources.
· The Public Hearing for the Project was held 50 km away from the project site which made it very difficult for affected people to attend the Hearing. Those who could attend the Hearing were faced with a biased Panel.
· Several faults were found in the EIA report by environmental experts including the fact that the EIA report was prepared based only on the winter season and the hydrological and ecological impact assessment was entirely inadequate.
· Even though the Project site was within 10 km of two wildlife sanctuaries, no prior clearance was taken from the National Board of Wildlife as required by the Supreme Court in its order dated 04.12.2006 in the Goa Foundation matter.
The Member of the Authority – Mr. JC Kala – undertook a site visit of the mining site on 17 June 2010. He inspected the site and spoke to persons affected by the project.
In order dated 12 July 2010, the Authority has commented on the fact that the Ministry, by not requiring a prior clearance under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, had gone against the order of the Supreme Court.
The Authority held that the correct procedure was not followed during the public hearing as the Panel framed the minutes of the meeting almost six weeks later instead of reading out the minutes to the audience of the Public Hearing.
The Authority held in its order –
’11. the Authority has thus come to the conclusion that the EAC (expert Appriasal Committee of the MoEF) has failed to appreciate the vital impacts of mining on the livelihood of the people of the area and the long term impacts on the ecology and environment. It was also observed that the mitigative measures and the safeguards proposed can hardly take care or compensate the damage mining would cause to the area in the short and the long term. Authority also feels that the contribution of this inferior iron ore to the State’s exchequer does not call for striking a balance between development and environment protection of the area.
12. to sum up, mining of iron ore in this area is not justified on environmental consideration even without taken into account its effects on sanctuary and the eventual orders of Hon’ble Supreme Court on the distance in the context of Goa.’
The order of the NEAA comes at a time when the MoEF has imposed a moratorium on any new mining in the State of Goa.