During a hearing on a suo moto Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and a few writ petitions filed by private miners at the Madras High Court on Monday (11 December) regarding the mining of beach sand minerals (BSM), the state government informed that 16.04 lakh tonnes had been transported illegally by private miners between 2018 and 2022 despite a ban on their transportation since 2013, reported The Hindu.
The state government's report also informed the bench comprising Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy that 6.62 lakh tonnes of additional stock was found in the possession of the private miners in comparison to 2018 even though the mining of BSM had been banned for the last 10 years.
The submission on beach sand mining comes a couple of weeks after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) submitted that the sale value of the excess river sand mined illegally in the last 1-2 years was Rs 4730 crore.
In 2018, a committee led by IAS officer Satyabrata Sahoo found that 1.5 crore tonnes of BSM were stored in the three coastal districts of Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli.
After complaints of illegal transportation, investigations found that the power supply to the CCTV cameras was cut and when solar powered CCTVs were installed, they were also damaged.
In 2021, the state government constituted a committee to conduct a reassessment. This committee found that 1.33 crore tonnes of BSM were available, which meant that there was a shortage of 16.04 lakh tonnes. It also found an additional 6.62 lakh tonnes in the possession of the private miners, stated the report.
Regarding the amount of monazite (a radioactive mineral), it stated that 6448.362 tonnes were found in 4.83 lakh tonnes of semi-processed BSM.
Natural Resources Department K Phanindra Reddy submitted that the Collectors have asked the police to keep a constant vigil. He also sought the permission of the Court to hand over the stock to Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL).
The bench asked amicus curiae V Suresh and Senior Counsel Srinath Sridevan, who represented V V Minerals and others to file their response in two weeks. It also ordered the case to to be listed on 18 January for the next hearing.
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