Onus on preventing illegal beach sand mining lies with TN: Centre tells HC

The matters relating to the regulation and control of illegal mining lies in the domain of state governments, said D Gauranga Charan Sethi.

Published: 03rd April 2022 03:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd April 2022 03:10 PM   |  A+A-

Madras High Court

Madras High Court (File photo)

Express News Service

THOOTHUKUDI: The Ministry of Mines (MoM) said the matters related to regulation and controlling illegal mining lie within the domain of the state government. The ministry said this in the counter-affidavit filed before the Madras High Court in connection with a suo motu PIL on the beach sand mineral case.

The hearing in the case is likely to commence on April 8.

Meanwhile, the Regional Controller of Mines of the Indian Bureau of Mines, D Gauranga Charan Sethi, pointed out that beach sand minerals, including ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, garnet, monazite, zircon and sillimanite, have potential applications in strategic, defence and hi-tech sectors. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Amendment Act 2021, denies composite license or mining lease to any person other than the government or government corporation.

The role of the ministry of mines in the prevention and control of illegal mining is limited to an extent of sustainable development of mineral resources and ensuring compliance with Mineral Conservation and Development Rules (MCDR), 2017, whereas the state government is empowered to frame rules to curb illegal mining transportation and storage of illegally mined minerals.

Any orders passed by the state government under section 23C of the MMDR Act, cannot be appealed against before the central government, he said adding, as per the existing law, the state governments are the appropriate authorities for the prevention of illegal mining.

The mining leases are entered into by the state government with reference to the revenue records maintained by them, and the state can only demarcate the lease boundaries and assess any illegal mining outside the lease area.

Any action to curb the theft of minerals needs direct intervention at the level of state government, he said.

 "Thus the matters relating to the regulation and control of illegal mining lies in the domain of state governments," Charan Sethi told the court.

Charan Sethi also said the observations of the Amicus Curiae reported on November 12, 2021, on illegal mining, transportation of beach sand minerals and the data mismatch on production of monazite are serious in nature.

The reports submitted by the court-appointed Amicus Curiae Advocate Dr V Suresh has revealed that the private lessees between 2000-01 and 2013-14, have mined minerals over and above the permitted quantity. As none of the lessees had submitted a scheme of mining to the Atomic minerals Directorate for approval, the quantum of minerals mined and transported during the non-scheme period shall be treated as illegally mined and transported, Suresh said.

Suresh also estimated that 37,024.64 tonnes of monazite is available in the entire stocks of raw sand, semi-processed sand and processed minerals stashed in the three districts. Monazite is the source of atomic minerals like Thorium and Uranium, and other rare earth elements.

Earlier, the Tamil Nadu government's Additional Chief Secretary for Industries Department, S Krishnan, in his counter-affidavit in the same case, sought permission from the court to hand over the entire stock of processed minerals, semi-processed minerals and raw sand kept at various places in the three coastal districts to IREL (India) Limited, a government-owned corporation, for disposal with law subject to mutual terms and conditions.

ALSO READ | Illegal mining went on till 2016 in Tamil Nadu's southern districts: Amicus Curiae

Unlawful mining and transportation of beach sand minerals from the three southern districts of Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari have been a long pending issue, since 2013. The 64 licenses given to 7 leases including 52 to Tirunelveli, six each to Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari, have been withheld due to pending cases since 2013, and prematurely terminated following an order by Ministry of Mines issued on March 1, 2019.

While the Gagandeep Singh Bedi committee report in 2017 brought to light illegal mining and transportation of  1.01 crore tonnes of raw sand by the private lessees from an area of 234.55 hectares on the non-leased out areas in three districts, the assessment by the Satyabrata Sahoo committee revealed a massive mismatch of the minerals to the tune of 69,89,946 tonnes between the stock and the quantum declared by the leaseholders.

The Sahoo committee reported stock of 1,55,48,680 tonnes (1.55 crore tonnes) of minerals as against the quantum of 85,58,734 tonnes (85.58 lakh tonnes) declared by the leaseholders.  


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