NEW DELHI: The Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr Jairam Ramesh on Monday admitted that the present regulatory system is not effective to deal with illegal mining.
“At present, we do not have an effective regulatory system to deal with illegal mining. Till such a regulatory system is put in place both at the central and state levels, efforts to check illegal mining will not be effective,” Mr Ramesh said during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.
He said a group of ministers has been set up to put in place an effective regulatory mechanism to deal with illegal mining.
The GoM has held two meetings and a report prepared.
He said the forest advisory committee has been constituted under section 3 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 to inter alia examine the proposals received from the state and Union territory governments for diversion of forestland for non-forestry purposes under the provision of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
The FAC, after examining the proposals, submits its recommendations to the central government.
The minister, however, said the primary responsibility to check illegal mining in any state or UT is of the state government or UT administration.
The Rajya Sabha was also informed that the Centre has amended the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, empowering the state governments with powers to act against illegal mining in their territories to inspect, penalise transportation and storage of illegally mined minerals, confiscate mined materials, tools, equipment and vehicles.
Answering a question by Mr V Hanumantha Rao and Mr T Subbirami Reddy on illegal mining, the Minister for Mines, Mr B K Handique said in a written reply that in view of the reports of spurt in illegal mining, the Centre had asked the states to prepare action plans and monitor and curb illegal mining using modes of satellite imagery and other intelligence inputs.
So far, 10 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orissa, have prepared action plan after the Centre’s advice. Nine states — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Uttarkhand — had started Hologram marking/barcoding of transport permits. There was also a central empowered coordination committee which meets every six months to discuss issues relating to mining sector, including illegal mining, and measures to detect and prevent and control it.
As per the information received from the 10 states, all major mineral states had set up a coordination-cum-empowered committee.
He said the Indian Bureau of Mines had constituted special task force teams which conducted 106 inspections in ‘endemic areas’ in five states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Gujarat during December 1 to 17, 2009 suspending the operations in 60 mines. Of these 58 had applied for revocation of suspension and two mines had been recommended termination.
He said STF conducted second round of inspection in April this year in Karnataka inspecting 67 mines and found ‘serious violations’ in 18 mines and they were kept under suspension. Less serious violations were found in 16 mines and they have been issued notices for compliance, Mr Handique said.
To a question of Mr D Raja and Mr Syed Azeez Pasha, Mr Handique said the forest department in Karnataka had seized 8,05,991.083 MT of ore without permits and cases were registered and the seized material were kept at the port conservator at Belikere for safe custody. However, on the basis of report on June 20, the seized material had been ‘illegally exported’.
The state government had kept the port conservator under suspension and the investigations by the Lok Ayukta and Corps of Detectives were under progress. High Court of Karnataka had prohibited export of ore seized in Belekere port, he said.