CHENNAI: In a bid to shore up its revenue, the Tamil Nadu government is trying to plug leakages in the mining sector and the State planning commission may soon come out with a new mining policy, top industry department sources told TNIE.
Reacting to Finance Minister Palanivel Thiagarajan’s recent interview to TNIE, a top official said steps like surveillance of mines through unmanned aerial vehicles are being undertaken to curb illegal mining. According to sources, at least 60% of minerals quarried in TN mines are unaccounted for and the State gets revenue from only the rest 40% minerals.
The official told TNIE that with the help of drones, the State can monitor 1,700 quarries and curb illegal mining of minerals. By using drones, the exact quantum of minerals mined can be computed and compared with the seigniorage fee collected and transport permits issued for the corresponding period.
In the first phase, drones are being used to curb illicit mining of limestone, roughstone and granite in quarries in Theni. The features of the quarry, including availability of minerals, will be assessed using drone technology at least twice every year. According to a policy note, the State mining department earned Rs 983.07 crore as revenue in 2020-21 compared to Rs 1,302 crore in 2019-20. The drop was attributed to Covid-19 pandemic. In 2018-19, Rs 1,186 crore was collected as revenue. The official also said the State is planning to come out with a sustainable mining policy to save environment.
In 2009, TNIE exposed illegal mining of granite worth several thousand crores in Madurai. A special team led by IAS officer Gangandeep Singh Bedi was constituted to probe the allegations in three districts. The team filed reports in 2016 and 2017, stating that 1.01 crore tonnes of raw sand (90.29 lakh from Tirunelveli, 10.29 lakh from Thoothukudi and 54,446 from Kanniyakumari) were mined illegally from 234.55 hectares in these districts.
During the year 2020-21, a total of 12,390 vehicles were seized and `11.73 crore was collected as penalty to curtail illegal mining. A total of 10,680 criminal cases/FIRs were registered and 22 cases were booked under the Goondas Act. For effective enforcement, the government has decided to fix a target for Collectors and other officers for carrying out surprise inspections.