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Centre gives nod for IREL to mine beach sand for heavy minerals in Kanniyakumari after 21 years

According to a gazette notification dated June 11, 2021, the MoM had reserved 1,144.06 hectares for mining beach sand minerals through IREL.

Published: 22nd May 2022 04:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th May 2022 08:32 PM   |  A+A-

mineral exploration, sand mining

For representational purposes ( File Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

THOOTHUKUDI: After two decades, the Ministry of Mines (MoM) had provided approval for the IREL (India) to carry out beach sand mining and extract heavy minerals at an area of 1,144.06 hectare in eight villages of Kanniyakumari district. According to a gazette notification dated June 11, 2021, the MoM had reserved 1,144.06 hectares for mining beach sand minerals through IREL(India) following consultation with the Tamil Nadu government.

In pursuant to the notification, an official communique to the industries department of Tamil Nadu dated April 22, said that previous approval of central government under the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations Act), 1957, (MMDR Act) has been extended for granting the mining lease to IREL (India) Limited in respect of mining beach sand minerals over an area of 1,144.06 hectares in Keezhmidalam, Midalam, Enayamputhanthurai, Ezhudesam-A,Ezhudesam-B, Ezhudesam-C, Kollencode-A and Kollencode-B in Killiyoor taluk of Kanyakumari district.

The MoM had also sought the State government to ensure compliance of amended provisions of MMDR Act, Atomic Energy Act, 1962, before granting the mining lease, the communication said.

IREL, a Central public sector undertaking functioning under the Department of Atomic Energy at Manavalakurichi village near Colachel in Kanniyakumari is the only mineral manufacturing unit functioning in the state. The mining leases procured by at least 12 private mining barons were prematurely terminated through an order promulgated on March 1, 2019, based on an amendment to the Atomic Minerals Concession Rules (AMCR), 2016, on February 20, 2019, following plethora of complaints about large scale illegal mining.

The MoM amended the AMCR, 2016, such as to grant the mining leases only to a government company or corporation owned by the government, where the threshold value of monazite in beach sand is above 0.00 %, thereby by stopping private players from mining beach sand minerals except for IREL (India).

The IREL (India), formerly known as the Indian Rare Earths Limited, currently holds beach sand mining lease for an area of 178.06 hectare including 29.78 hectare in Midalam and Keezhmidalam,148.27 hectare in Manavalakurichi of Kanyakumari district. Lastly, the IREL executed a lease deed on May 25, 2001 for extracting ilmenite, zircon, rutile, monazite and sillimanite. Its mineral separation unit was not able to be operated to its installed capacity due to lack of raw materials, which caused a financial loss towards remitting salaries of employees for the last 20 years. Its employee strength had reduced gradually with only an odd 300 persons working now.

Industrial sources told TNIE that the IREL could not get the mining leases due to the heavy competition and collusion of officials with the private players. Due to political interventions in the beach sand mining in the year 2000, the mining lease applications of IREL were not disposed of by the state authorities in order to favour their cronies. The quantum of minerals has reduced over the years in the existing IREL's mining quarries. The grant of new leases may increase Run of Mines for IREL and multiply employment opportunities for the people in Kanniyakumari district, the sources said.  

Teri sand dug from canal project to be transported to IREL from Thoothukudi

The teri sand being excavated for a distance of 8.10 km at an area of 157.42 hectare in Thoothukudi district, for the "formation of flood carrier canal"as apart of Thamirabarani river interlinking project which aims to divert the surpluswater from Kannadian channel to drought prone area of Thisayanvilai and Sathankulam. It is anticipated that at least 11,43,748 cubic metre of teri sand out of 16,43,850 cubic metre to be dug from the 8.10 km long stretch through the villages of Arasur 1 , Arasur 2 and Naduvakurichi of Sathankulam taluk, supposed to be disposed off immediately.

As mineralogical analysis had revealed the presence of heavy minerals to the tune of 10.04 % in the canal and 15.10 % at ponds along the flood carrier project, the Thoothukudi collector Dr K Senthil Raj had proposed to Water Resource Department to transport the teri sand to IREL (IREL), functioning in Manavalakurichi, said an official sources. 

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