Sand miners in TN summoned over no response

The show-cause notices follows the conclusion of an investigation into the illegal mining of BSM, 10 years after it was banned in 2013.
Express illustration
Express illustration

TIRUNELVELI: Even as beach sand mineral (BSM) mining barons remain tight-lipped over the show-cause notices that they were served to recover a total of Rs 5,035.42 crore of losses incurred by the government exchequer, the Tamil Nadu government has called on them to appear in person before the collectors of Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, and Kanniyakumari districts.

The show-cause notices follows the conclusion of an investigation into the illegal mining of BSM, 10 years after it was banned in 2013. The state government has asked all BSM miners, who held 64 mining leases in 2014, for an explanation before its recovery of Rs 5,035.42 crore on two sets of notices: One for the pre-ban period of 2000 to 2013, and the second for the post-ban period i.e, from 2013 to 2016. The parties have to respond to the notices within 15 days.

With notices from the pre-ban period that were issued on violations, the state government seeks to recover Rs 3,032.77 crore towards the cost and royalty of minerals illegally mined. The post-ban period notices are aimed at recovering Rs 2,002.65 crore, which includes Rs 1,938.85 crore towards cost of minerals and Rs 63.8 crore of royalty. Both sets of notices were served based on the affidavit submitted by the assistant customs commissioner, and the comprehensive reports of the Amicus Curiae to the Madras High Court, which has been hearing the case on a suo-motu public interest litigation petition since 2015.

According to the notices served for the post-ban period, the state government has sought to recover Rs 425.65 crore from Beach Sand Mining Company and its sister firms that held 10 mining leases, for illegally exporting a total of 4,23,261 tonnes of minerals, including 2,82,022.48 tonnes of garnet and 1,41,238 tonnes of ilmenite. Through the notices served to the Industries Mineral Company, which held 34 mining leases in the three southern districts, Rs 276.08 crore will be recovered towards cost and royalty for 2,84,535.71 tonnes of minerals, including 63,444.1 tonnes of garnet, 1,26,568 tonnes of ilmenite, and 164 tonnes of zircon.

The government is set to recover Rs 191.30 crore from the Indian Ocean Garnet Sand Company (IOGSC), which illegally mined 1,38,122.71 tonnes of garnet through two mining leases. From Transworld Garnet India Private Limited, which held 16 mining leases in Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli, the government has sought to recover Rs 196.58 crore for exporting 1,45,705 tonnes of garnet. Similarly, notices served to VV Minerals, holder of 34 mining leases in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, and Kanniyakumari, may have to pay up Rs 913.04 crore for illegally mining and exporting a total of 7,70,200 tonnes of garnet, ilmenite, rutile, and zircon between 2014 and 2016.

The post-ban period notices also directed the miners to submit details of actual quantities of garnet ilmenite, rutile, and zircon exported through the Thoothukudi VOC port and other ports since August, 2013, after which the state stopped issuing transport passes.

Speaking to TNIE, a senior official from Tirunelveli said that none of the beach sand miners has responded to either of the notices. Hence, the state government has asked them to appear in person, he said.

“If the sand miners fail to appear in person, the state will conclude that they have no further remark on the recovery process, and pass orders based on the material available on records. Subsequently, they will be penalised,” said a top official. “The final decision, however, will be based on the HC judgment,” said another senior official. Amid the row, a few beach sand miners have condemned the show cause notices as invalid since the case is sub judice.

Activist Kumaresan said the notices are served to dilute the issue. The case, dealing with the issue of illegal mining, is yet to conclude. At this time, the notices stand as invalid, he added.

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