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Spectre of illegal mining looms over India

22nd June 2015

By: Ajoy K Das

Creamer Media Correspondent

  

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KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – Is illegal mining rearing its head in India again? 

The concern has moved centre stage following the murder of a journalist in the central province of Madhya Pradesh for opposing the mining mafia and moving the courts against illegal mining.

Even though three people, all involved in illegal manganese mining and part of the mining mafia in the region, have been arrested on charges of murder, sections within the federal and provincial governments have expressed concern about whether the murder was an isolated incident or whether it signalled the re-emergence of the mining mafia despite changes in legislation and stringent punitive action.

Data collated from Indian Bureau of Mines showed that provincial governments had filed 727 cases during the past year following the inspection of 2 427 operational mines. The courts upheld charges in the cases of 25 mines. Of the mines inspected, as many as 1 347 were operating in violation of the newly promulgated Mines Minerals Development and Regulation Act (MMDRA) 2015 and 357 mines had their mining licences cancelled over the past year.

Several apparently isolated reports from across the country were pointers that while illegal mining had not assumed the alarming proportions of a few years ago, when mining operations in the provinces of Goa, Karnataka and Odisha were banned under court orders, the number of violations of mining laws and resultant law and order issues were on the rise.

Last month, the National Green Tribunal slammed the Madhya Pradesh government for failure to take action against sand mining along rivers in the region. On Sunday, the police of the western Indian province of Maharashtra seized 65 trucks ferrying illegally mined sand.

Mines Ministry officials said that while the government deemed the recent cases as isolated incidents, it was concerned that such cases were being reported despite several initiatives taken by the new federal government under the MMDRA. These included empowering the provinces to take penal action, setting up of a special task force with policing powers across 23 provinces and setting up provincial level coordination committees of local government officials, Indian Railways and Port authorities to maintain vigilance at every stage from the pithead to transportation at mining operations, the officials said.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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