THOOTHUKUDI: Despite a ban on the mining of beach sand minerals, sealed godowns containing the minerals have been allegedly broken into several times in the last four years. This is after such godowns were sealed in 2017 ensuing a court order. Advocates in the district say that the lax attitude of the district administration in guarding the godowns has led to such incidents.
After the court order, a special team headed by IAS officer Satyabrata Sahoo held searches at all beach sand mineral separation plants and godowns in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts. As many as 30 godowns stocked with 4,55,245 tonne of beach minerals and 3,12,314 tonne non-processed raw beach sand were sealed.
During the assessment on March 24, 2017, the godown premises on Harbour road in Mullakadu-1 from which the 39 tonnes of ilmenite sand was stolen on Friday, had a quantum of 56098.410 tonnes of garnet, 128550.2 tonnes of ilmenite, 2645.9 tonnes of zirconium and 823.4 tonnes of rutile, as per the assessment report.
Re-inspection at Arasoor
Following complaints of break ins at a sealed godown of BMC minerals in Arasoor-2 village, the collector designated an official team to inspect the premises on April 29, 2020, and the officials headed by Tiruchendur RDO inspected the site on May 6. The inspection revealed a gross mismatch of beach mineral stocks assessed at the time of sealing the godown on May 16, 2017 and May 6, 2020. A copy of the report is in possession of Express. The official team headed by the Tiruchendur RDO T Dhanapriya found 1299 tonnes of mineral sand missing from the premises.
Dhanapriya also found that 1,52,580 cubic metres of beach sand had been quarried illegally near the plant. Also, the plant’s daily report showed that the plant was functioning till October 23, 2018, despite being sealed in May, 2017, the RDO’s report revealed.
Similarly, a complaint given to principal secretary of the State government by environment activist K Sermakani states that Vallanvilai plant in Tirunelveli district, belong to S Vaikundarajan, had been broken into during April 2021, and the assessed beach sand minerals and machinery had been removed unlawfully. According to the 2017 assessment report, Vallanvilai plant had a stock of 2384 tonnes of processed garnet and 1374 tonnes of ilmenite.
The mineral stocks, machinery, equipment, motors and allied instruments were removed from the godown and transported to Arima Minerals in Dubai illegally, Sermakani said adding that the Collector of Tirunelveli, had not conducted a re-inspection to assess the minerals.
When asked about the break-in incident at the godown owned by VV Minerals’ on harbour road in Mullakadu village, Collector Dr K Senthil Raj told TNIE that the VV Titanium Pigments unit has imported over 8000 tonnes of Ilmenite in the past few months after obtaining a court order. The mineral has been unloaded at one of the empty godowns, he said. “I have instructed revenue authorities to verify the conditions of all the godowns sealed as per court orders. Any malpractices at the sealed godown premises would be dealt with firmly,” he assured.
While the Tamil Nadu government banned beach sand mining in 2013, the Ministry of Mines (MoM) issued a notification in 2016 banning private beach sand miners from mining resources having monazite concentration exceeding 0.75 percent. Shortly after, the Department of Atomic Energy through a gazette notification dated February 20, banned private companies from mining beach sand minerals.
The coastal areas in the country have a vast reserve of heavy minerals such as ilmenite, garnet, rutile, leucoxene, monazite, zircon and sillimanite. The beach sand is rich in Monazite, an ore for nuclear substance thorium, and thus the beach sand mining comes under the purview of Atomic Minerals Concession Rules.
30 godowns stocked with 4.5L tonne of beach minerals were sealed in 2017 after a court order
About 39 tonnes of ilmenite sand was stolen from Mullakadu godown on Friday
When a team led by Tiruchendur RDO inspected Arasoor godown in May, they found 1,299 tonnes of mineral sand missing
Around 1,52,580 cubic metres of beach sand was also quarried illegally near the plant
Beach sand minerals and machinery were removed from Vallanvilai plant illegally in April, and transported to Arima Minerals in Dubai