Panaji: Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP) national secretary Jitendra Deshprabhu has been fined Rs.1.72 crore for illegal mining of iron ore in Goa, according to documents sourced from the state mining department.
Deshprabhu has claimed that while the land where illegal mining was being carried out was owned by him, he was not behind the mining operations.
Mining department documents, however, show that Deshprabhu, whose family was once appointed by the colonial Portuguese to collect revenue taxes, owns huge tracts of land in the Pernem sub district located 30 km from here, has extracted nearly 15,000 tonnes of iron ore and dumped it in his adjoining property in survey number 299/0 of the Korgao village panchayat.
'More than 50,000 tonnes has already been extracted if one assesses the depth and the extent of depth the pit has reached,' a site inspection report of the state mining department drafted by technical assistant Hector Fernandes states.
Based on Fernandes' report, Deshprabhu has been issued notices under section four of the mines and minerals development and regulation act 1957 in December last year.
Mining department officials also said the son of a senior cabinet minister had been contracted to extract the iron ore from the mining pit.
The mining department's action against the ruling top NCP official lends credence to opposition charges, that the Congress-led coalition government was promoting illegal mining and that several cabinet ministers were indulging in rampant illegal mining, which accounts for nearly 18 percent of the state's Rs.6,000 crore mining industry.
When asked to respond to allegations vis-a-vis illegal mining and the fine imposed on him by the state mining department, Deshprabhu said: 'That's preposterous. I own the land, but I am not carrying out any mining activity. I am not involved in any illegal mining at all. I have given the land to a contractor with a valid licence for quarrying. You should ask him.'