Cams at godowns with Rs 10k crore damaged
43 CCTV cameras in Thoothukudi were either broken, snapped or their cables have been disconnected. Some of the CCTV cameras’ hard disks, modems, and solar panels are also damaged.
THOOTHUKUDI: Even as a case related to illegal mining and stocking of beach sand minerals is pending in the Madras High Court, at least 43 of 103 CCTV cameras and other related paraphernalia installed at warehouses in Thoothukudi district, where these minerals are stored, have been damaged by unknown elements.
Multiple warehouses in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari, which were sealed by the state government over complaints of violations, store over 1.55 crore tonnes of beach sand minerals worth Rs 10,000 crore in the international market, sources said.
After a recent inspection showed that the equipment could have been damaged due to suspected sabotage, Thoothukudi district officials are now planning to fix the damaged CCTV cameras, DVIRs, hard disks, and solar panels. Sources said 43 CCTV cameras in Thoothukudi were either broken, snapped or their cables have been disconnected. Some of the CCTV cameras’ hard disks, modems, and solar panels are also damaged, sources said. “At least four CCTV cameras at IMC godown on harbour express highway and four CCTV cameras and two solar panels at BMC godown, Muthaiapuram, were deliberately damaged,” an officer said. Apart from replacing these CCTVs, two terabyte hard disks are to be reinstalled at a cost of Rs 20 lakh, the officer said.
Since 2013, mining operations for beach sand minerals such as garnet, ilmenite, rutile, zircon, sillimanite have been banned in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, Kanniyakumari, Tiruchy and Madurai districts, and permit to transport them was also cancelled.
A preliminary assessment conducted by Satyabrata Sahoo committee in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts in 2017 revealed that the miners had stocked 155,48,680.61 tonnes of minerals in godowns, as against 85,58,734.12 tonnes declared by the plant owners. Subsequently all the godowns were sealed. A mining plant at Vallanvilai was sealed along with the machinery.
The Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research found 53% samples recorded more than 0.25 % monazite equivalent, and recommended proper and regular monitoring of safety standards.
A court-appointed amicus curiae estimated 37,024.64 tonnes of monazite could have been extracted from these stocks and also reckoned the cost of the minerals and royalty of Rs 5,832.44 crore to be recovered from the mining lessees for the quantum of minerals illegally mined and transported between 2001 and 2013 (pre-ban period) and 2013-16 (post-ban period). The industries department secretary prayed to the Madras HC seeking permission to hand over these entire stocks to the public sector plant IREL or TAMIN. The suo motu case regarding illegal beach sand mining is pending before the HC.
After repeated complaints were made regarding thefts from these godowns, the government installed CCTV cameras to monitor the godowns. At least 30 FIRs have been registered over breaking of seals and theft of mineral stocks and related offences since 2017.With the offences continuing, the activists said the government should inquire about the minerals valued to Rs 10,000 crore stocked in sealed godowns.