CHENNAI: Minerals major VV Minerals of Tirunelveli has taken strong objection to the findings of a special team headed by IAS officer Satyabrata Sahoo, in his report on the assessment of beach sand minerals stored at various places in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts, that has been filed before the Madras High Court in March last.
Originally, Gagandeep Singh Bedi, the then Revenue secretary, was appointed as head of the special
team in 2013. While so, one G Victor Rajamanickam filed a PIL petition in the High Court for constitution of another special investigation team to probe alleged beach sand mining in the three coastal districts.
Following a direction from the first bench on the PIL and other batch of writ appeals and petitions, the government on April 7, 2017 nominated Sahoo, who was then chairman and managing director of TIDCO, as the head of the special team. The court had also appointed advocate V Suresh as the amicus curiae to assist the court. The report was filed before a division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee in March last.
Among other things, the report said there is a massive difference to the tune of 6.89 lakh tonnes between the quantum of beach sand minerals assessed by the team and the quantum declared as stocks by the plant owners/lease holders in respect of the three districts and that the samples contained more than 0.25 per cent of Monazite equivalent. The issues of radiation safety need to be better supervised and well-regulated, it added.
When the matter came up before the bench last week, VV Minerals filed an affidavit stating that there are substantial discrepancies in the annexures and the covering of the report. Sahoo had misleadingly clubbed together the data submitted by other government agencies to give a wrong picture, which is unfair. The statement that 53 per cent of the samples contained over 0.25 per cent Monazite Equivalent is misleading. The samples referred to, included semi processed sand too, which will obviously have a much higher equivalent.
The panel had made much improper reliance on amicus curiae and followed defective inspection and sample tests. It had followed an erroneous application of Monazite equivalent concept, VV Minerals claimed.
The quantity of the Monazite is consistent with their filing with the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the Atomic Minerals Directorate’s determination. Therefore, the report only confirms the quantum of monazite already available in the tailing dumps as affirmed by them in the filings of the AERB. Thus, there is no wrongdoing on their part.
They also alleged that the report was biased in as much as it targeted the miners, except two other firms, Southern Enterprises and Indian Garnet Sand Company Private Limited, who had not obtained any of the safety certificates from the AERB. They had never allowed any person to measure the Monazite content in their plant. Even the amicus had not said a single word about the two companies, VV Minerals added.
Allegation of bias
VV Minerals alleged that the report was biased as it targeted the miners, except two other firms, who had not obtained any safety certificates from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.