26 Aug : The Minister for Mines Shri B. K. Handique today made an impassioned plea to the states to improve governance to check illegal mining. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha the Minister said, the government is highly concerned about the incidents of illegal mining in the country. He said, the main reason for this is the poor enforcement of the regulatory system and strong demand for ores. He said, the state governments have the power to administer land records, lease boundaries, transportation, trade and storage of the mineral. So they are the appropriate authorities to regulate the mineral sector. He said, the royalty for ores has been revised and this has resulted in higher revenue for the states. This, he said, could be utilized for improving the governance.
Listing out the steps taken by the Ministry to curb illegal mining, Shri Handique said, special task force has been constituted through the Indian Bureau of Mines for inspection of mines in endemic areas by taking the help of satellite imageries. He said, inspections were conducted in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Gujarat covering 212 mines. As a result of this, mining activities have been suspended in 82 mines. The IBM has also recommended termination of three leases and issuance of show cause of notices to 64 cases. He said, the central government is constantly interacting with the state governments and also nudging them towards better regulation.
The Minister said, the states have been advised to make use of satellite imagery in collaboration with ISRO and the National Remote Sensing Agency to detect illegal mining. He said, we have been partly successful in some states by asking them to monitor transportation of illegally mined ores by securitization of transport bodies, using holograms, bar coding, price monitoring and registration of dealers. He said, in order to assist the state governments, Ministries of Railways, Shipping and the Customs Department have also taken pro active steps to exercise effective checks at exit points. However, something still remains to be done to tighten the regulation of transportation of minerals by road, which is well within the domain of the states. He also ruled out nationalization as the answer.
The Minister emphasized that a new MMDR Act has been drafted giving direct powers to the centre for investigation and prosecution against illegal mining through an overarching regulatory authority. Setting up of special courts is also being proposed. Further, stringent measures are being proposed not only for cancelling the concerned lease in which illegal mining took place but also cancelling all the other existing leases of the persons and making them ineligible for getting further leases in future. He said, besides strict regulatory mechanism, the local host population must be included as stake holders in the mining process and they must be provided with the stake holders’ share of the profit in the mining operation.