Tamil Nadu to take policy decision on mineral mining

Chennai, Sep 17 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa Tuesday announced a policy decision on the beach sand mineral mining will be taken by the government after surveying the mines in Tirunelveli, Madurai, Kanyakumari and Tiruchirapalli districts.

The beach sand mineral include garnet, ilmenite and rutile.

In a statement issued here, Jayalalithaa said a special team will survey 71 mines in these districts to see whether the leasers have committed any irregularities there.

She said the special team headed by Gagandeep Singh Bedi, secretary, Department of Revenue, formed to survey the beach sand mineral mines in Tuticorin district has submitted its report to her Tuesday.

The team would survey the 71 mines leased to private parties in Tirunelveli, Madurai, Kanyakumari and Tiruchirapalli and submit its report.

Till such time the survey is completed, mining in the quarries has been halted, Jayalalithaa said.

"On receipt of the report a policy decision on beach sand mineral mining will be taken," Jayalalithaa said.

The AIADMK government constituted the special probe team after the former Tuticorin district collector Ashish Kumar sent a report to the government Aug 6 saying that large scale illicit beach sand mining had been detected in the district.

The report also recommended detailed field inspections by a special team comprising officials from the departments of revenue, police, environment and forests, geology and mining to be undertaken.

Incidentally, Kumar was transferred and posted as deputy secretary of Social Welfare and Nutritious Meals Department and M. Ravikumar, district collector, Ariyalur, replaced him.

Officials of Tuticorin district administration inspected the sand quarries in Vaippar and Vembar villages in the district on complaints that a mining company with a permission to mine in four hectares has been mining in 30 hectares.

"On the basis of complaints from the fishing community, we inspected the mining areas in Vaippar village. The leasee has been given permission to mine in four hectares. We found the mining was being done in 30 hectares," Kumar told IANS then.

"Around 230,000 tonnes of beach sand minerals have been quarried in Vaippar village without permission from the government. We have sent the report to the government and action will be taken," he said.

"We have not quantified the quantum of loss to the government," he added.

The protest against illegal mining of precious beach sand minerals gained further strength with the Tuticorin Roman Catholic Bishop Yvon Ambroise urging the government to ban mining and confiscate the ill-gotten wealth of the miners.

Villagers belonging to three villages in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here, also submitted a memorandum to the government to act against private miners in the district.

"The indiscriminate mining of beach sand minerals has resulted in several health complications for the fishermen in Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts. The ecological damage is also immense which in turn affects the fishermen's health," Ambroise told IANS last month.

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