KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – The Indian government has banned beach sand mining by private companies in a bid to check illegal sand mining and coastal erosion from rampant violations of mining rules across coastal states.
“Coastal areas in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh where beach sand is laced with rare earth minerals have been suffering erosion, damaging the ecosystem and threatening livelihood of indigenous fishermen, owing to unscientific and illegal mining of beach sand,” the notification imposing a ban on mining by private companies said.
The government in 2016 permitted sand mining by private to increase production of rare earth minerals.
The move to ban private mining of beach sands comes on heels of the government canalising export of beach sand minerals exclusively though State-run Indian Rare Earths Limited, thereby preventing private miners from directly exporting minerals like garnet, leucoxene, sillimanite, illeminite, zircon and monazite.
In reality, the latest notification tweaks the threshold limit in beach sand to effectively stop private miners from exploiting the resource.
The notification said, “all cases of beach sand minerals and other deposits in association with monazite are notified as above the threshold i.e threshold is 0.00% monazite , irrespective of the grade of monazite.”
At the time when private mining of beach sand was allowed in 2016, the notification had laid down the threshold concentration of monazite at 0.75% in beach sand and private miners were permitted to operate at any beach above such a threshold.
However, private miners taken aback by the government decision said that the ban had been imposed “unilaterally” as the government had turned down repeated request from private miners seeking to place their view before the government.
The private miners, now without any recourse, are only banking on getting the decision reversed by a new government after the Indian national elections slated to be held within the next few months.