Viewpoint: What can we learn from a campaign for zero-loss mining in Goa?

Goa and the UK might seem to have very little in common, but there are a couple of things that unite Goans and the British: a wealth of natural resources, and the fact that the people see little or nothing of the value of those resources.

This is an especially important issue for Britain, given the sharp decline in receipts from the oil and gas industry. According to research presented in Parliament last year, the industry ‘contributed some 0.8% of GDP in second quarter 2015 down from a high of 2.5% in second quarter 2008’.[1] That is an alarming drop over a seven-year period, and a timely reminder that we are not mining from a bottomless resource. ‘Production levels of oil and gas from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) are in decline. The remaining potential of the UKCS is dependent on the future levels of investment.’[2]

The Alaskan Model

The Alaska Permanent Fund is a good example of one way of doing things. This fund, built up from oil royalties, ensures that future generations will benefit from the value generated by mining natural resources, and that the current generation benefits by receiving an annual dividend.

Set up in the 1970s, the fund was created ‘to conserve a portion of the state’s revenue from mineral resources to benefit all generations of Alaskans’ [3] as well as to generate an annual dividend for Alaskan citizens. The fund is now worth almost US$ 55 billion – larger than any endowment fund, private foundation or pension trust in the US. The annual dividend in 2015 was nearly US$ 2000 per citizen.

The Goenchi Mati campaign

The Goenchi Mati campaign[4] in Goa is based on two principles:

  • Minerals are part of the commons: they belong to the people, with the state as trustee.
  • Intergenerational equity means that future generations should inherit what we inherited: we are simply custodians over the planet for future generations.

The Per-Head Tax in mining

In 2014 a Supreme Court judgment in the Goa Mining Case told the state to set up a permanent fund into which a levy on iron ore mining would be paid on grounds of intergenerational equity.[6] The state proposed a watered down version of the fund that neither ensured that all of the money due would be collected, or provided safeguards for future generations. Subsequent decisions have resulted in losses estimated conservatively at Rs 1,50,000 crores ($25 billion) – or Rs 10 lakhs ($17,400) per individual – from the mineral commons.[7] This is approximately 4 years of Goa’s current GDP.

Lessons for the UK

Massive losses of mineral value are not restricted to India and Goa. According to the Natural Resource Governance Institute, the United Kingdom might have lost up to GBP400 billion from oil and gas mining in the North Sea when compared with Norway.[8] A ‘zero-loss’ mining regime, coupled with a Permanent Fund and a Citizen’s Income, would mean that both current and future generations could be better served. This argument can clearly be extended to other kinds of commons.

The Goenchi Mati campaign’s aim is to generate public awareness about mineral mining and how much people are losing out, in an attempt to persuade the next Goan government to collect all of the money due and to make a Citizen’s Dividend a priority. The larger goal is to implement these principles not just in Goa, but across India and the globe.

It is important that the state should achieve ‘Zero Loss’ in mineral extraction. By this we mean that the government should capture all of the ‘economic rent’: that is, that all proceeds apart from the costs of extraction (which include a reasonable profit for mining companies) should be paid to the government. From this point of view, over an eight year period between 2004 and 2012, the people of Goa lost over Rs. 50,000 crores ($8.5 billion) from minerals, approximately 28% of cumulative GDP for those 8 years.[5] This represents a loss of Rs. 3.5 lakhs ($5,800) per individual over that period, three times the poverty line. Given that minerals are a part of the commons, this loss is effectively a per-head tax, and it represents a regressive redistribution of wealth.

This means that states should a) ensure that they receive the full value of the minerals being extracted, b) set up a Permanent Fund in which all mineral receipts can be deposited, for the benefit of future generations, and c) as this fund belongs to the people, the real income (after inflation) generated by the fund should be distributed equally to every citizen as a commons dividend, a Citizen’s Dividend. This is like a Basic Income, or a Citizen’s Income, except that the funding source is income from the commons, and the amount can vary from year to year.

Rahul Basu and Deepak Narayanan



[2] ibid



[5] Catastrophic Failure of Public Trust in Mining: Case Study of Goa, Rahul Basu, Economic & Political Weekly Sep 19, 2015, Vol L No 38

[6] Goa Foundation vs Union of India & ors, (2014) Writ Petition (civil) 435 of 2012


[8] Did the UK Miss Out on £400 Billion Worth of Oil Revenue?, David Manley & Keith Myers, Natural Resource Governance Institute, 5 October 2015