KOCHI: The local population of Alappad, a coastal village in Kollam, might be genuine in their protest against the depleting coastal line of their hamlet following the mining of mineral-rich sand by two public limited companies – Indian Rare Earths (IRE) Ltd and Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML).
However, there is something more than meets the eye as the sand deposit in Kollam is the most precious in the world and lobbying is on by a few private entities to get hold of this natural treasure which is now solely under the control of the two Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).
The outcry against the mining, which started way back in 1965 on the mineral-rich 22.5-km-stretch in the district is not new. As the stretch contains heavy minerals like ilmenite, rutile, zircon and sillimanite, there is a huge demand for the sand from the area by industries inside the country and abroad.
The Kerala government is fully aware of the underplay that is taking place behind the scene to prevent both the PSUs from conducting mining operations. “We know who all are playing from behind,” said state Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma. “There is a strong lobby involved in scuttling the development of both the PSUs. However, the government will not budge to any such threats and will continue with scientific mining in the stretch,” she said.
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According to state intelligence officers, there is an organised wing functioning among the locals to instigate them to take up protests as per the interests of a few third parties. “We are closely watching the situation and analysing certain details which we have been collecting from the ground,” said a senior officer.
The locals allege due to indiscriminate and unscientific mining, their village situated between the Arabian Sea and TS Canal has shrunk from 87.5 sqkm to 8.7 sqkm in a span of 50 years.If one goes through a few developments that took place with regard to the Alappad mining issue in the past 10 years, it’s quite evident a few private sector parties are keen to join the mining. “Some private players, mainly from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, are eyeing this stretch,” the officers said adding large-scale unauthorised mining and smuggling of mineral sand have been taking place for supplying to factories situated outside Kerala.
The gravity of the smuggling came to light when Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader and former Minister N K Premachandran urged the earlier UDF Government led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to order a CBI probe into the irregularities connected with mineral sand-mining as a lobby was involved in scuttling mining by the PSUs.