We have a unique opportunity to safeguard our mineral wealth, for all future.
Goa Foundation, mines, minerals & People, Common Cause and the Goenchi Mati Movement appeal to civil society to come together to demand from our government a fair and just National Mineral Policy. Natural resources are our shared inheritance. It is our duty to ensure that we protect our inheritance for future generations — the principle of Intergenerational Equity (IE). The current policy is grossly unfair and unconstitutional. It subverts Intergenerational Equity. The Government said this in the latest Economic Survey:
Economic Survey 2017–18, Chapter 13, Box 1: Supreme Court of India Judgement on Goa Mining
The judgment of the Supreme Court of India in WP 435/2012 (Goa Foundation vs UoI & Ors, the Goa mining case), was the culmination of a series of landmark judgements on the subject of managing natural resources in public domain. In this case, the apex court ordered a cap on mining as well as the creation of a Goan Iron Ore Permanent Fund to meet the ends of inter-generational equity and sustainable development. When considered along with earlier SC judgements on the public trust doctrine, notable CA 4154/2000 (Fomento Resorts & Anr. Vs Minguel Martins & Ors) and on the disposal of natural resources, notably WP 423/2010 (CPIL & Ors vs UoI & Ors, the 2G spectrum case), a new picture emerges of minerals.
What implications does the SC Judgement carry for natural resource management?
Natural resources, including minerals, are a shared inheritance that needs to be preserved for future generations. As sub-soil minerals are largely owned by the States, and offshore minerals by the Centre, the states are the trustees on behalf of the people. The cap on mining in Goa is to ensure the availability of minerals over several generations as well as to limit the environmental damage from permitted extraction.
The proposal for exploring the creation of a Goan Iron Ore Permanent Fund is notable for being the first that has potential to be established by judicial action. Norway and over 50 other countries / sub-nations have created Permanent Funds based on extracting economic rent from oil or other natural resources. The oldest of these funds, in Texas, dates back to 1876.
Today civil society has the historic opportunity to install a new framework to determine how we shall henceforth use our precious natural resources. Recently, the Supreme Court, after a discussion on Intergenerational Equity, directed the Government of India to have a fresh look at the National Mineral Policy 2008. In response, the Government has set up a committee whose report is due Oct 31, 2017. This is an opportunity for us to appeal to this committee to demand what is right for us, our children and future generations.
THE RESOURCE CURSE
Minerals are the natural resources most easily converted to cash. This drives rent seeking, illegal mining, bending of rules, turning a blind eye to violations, under and over invoicing and a variety of other malpractices that are widespread. This has been well documented in a number of states including Rajasthan, Karnataka, Goa, Odisha, and Jharkhand.
More worryingly, it has been found that extraordinary amounts are being stolen from our mineral commons within the current system. In Goa, over an eight year period (2004–2012), 95% of the value of the minerals was lost. The per-head loss from recent “legal” lease renewals was Rs.10 lakhs. Data from across the country for iron ore, coal, oil and gas shows a similar trend. Everyone is losing equally, while a few are becoming super-rich. This is looting economics, not trickle-down economics.
This underpricing of our minerals is clearly unfair. Miners have all incentives to extract as quickly as possible, before the people realize what is happening. This haste causes enormous damage to the environment and human rights. It leads to widespread corruption and uncaring governance. This in turn, often leads to conflict and civil war. But there is a way out.