About 4.5 million tonnes of iron ore was illegally exported from Mormugao Port Trust in south Goa, after being brought in from the neighbouring state of Karnataka, according to Santosh Hegde, the former Lokayukta of Karnataka.
''This cannot happen innocently,'' said Hegde, currently visiting Goa. ''This has been done in collusion with the locals. Its for the Goa government to investigate into who were these people who allowed the ore to be exported.''
The former supreme court judge published a damning indictment of the Karnataka government, accusing it of turning a blind eye to the illegal mining in Bellary district. His explosive report led to the fall of B S Yeddyurappa, the former BJP chief minister of Karnataka, who was forced to quit after being accused of accepting kickbacks from companies that were granted mining licences.
''It's not difficult for Goa to investigate into the illegalities as there are proper permits issued while ore is brought in from across the border. Every lot of ore brought in has certain identification," he said. According to Hegde, Goa does not produce high-grade ore. But exports from Mormugao indicate that the ore that high ferrous content.
Referring to his 25,000-page report on the Bellary mafia, Hegde bemoaned the fact that he did not have adequate time to continue with the probe. ''With a mere five officers, we scrutinised 400,000 docmuments and assessed four million bank accounts,'' he remarked. ''If we had got two more months, we would have literally nailed everyone involved in Bellary illegal mining scam.''
Referring to mining in Goa, also a major producer of iron ore, the former apex court judge said there was no difference between 'irregular' and 'illegal' mining.
Subhash Shirodkar, president of the Goa unit of the Congress, had tried to draw a line between the two, claiming that Goa did not have 'illegal' mining, but there could be some irregularities. ''There is a vast difference between irregularities and illegalities,'' said Shirodkar.
But according to Hegde, ''there is no difference between illegal or irregular mining. In both cases there is cheating.''