SALEM: The fate of nearly 2,800 mines and quarries in the State hangs in the balance as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has rejected the plea of the State government for more time to streamline the modalities for getting environmental clearance.
In Salem, the operation of nearly 200 big, medium and small mines and quarries have come to a total halt since mid-January as the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) insisted on the operators to comply with the environmental clearance norms. But the State government is yet to put in place structures for getting clearance as per requirements of the Mines and Minerals Regulation Act, a Central law introduced two years ago.
The Act mandates the setting up of State and District level Environmental Clearance Authorities, but they are yet to be created. As a result, work at all mines and quarries except those operating in forest areas under the direct clearance of the MoEF, remain suspended.
At stake is the livelihood of nearly 2 lakh workers in the Salem region and 5 lakh across the State. Hundreds of small miners are facing serious financial threat, while the State government itself is losing heavily on taxes and lease fee.
A whole range of sectors from steel to soap and cleaning powders to cement production have been hit ever since mining stopped. In Salem, many of these industries have been virtually closed due to shortage of minerals like limestone, feldspar, quartz and magnesite.
Members of the TN Small Miners Association squarely blame the State government for not creating structures.
Department of Mines and Geology officials said on condition of anonymity that during its April 12 hearing, the NGT rejected the State plea for more time to set up the structures. Large and medium scale miners have filed a writ petition in the Madras HC seeking orders to the TN and MoEF to end the impasse.