Minor Mineral Policy needs a drastic relooks

Dr VK Bahuguna

(The author is a former civil servant and can be reached at:

Minerals in today’s industrial age are as essential as food items and one cannot imagine of a modern world without a solid back up of mineral resources. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957(MMRD Act) provides a mechanism to control the exploitation and licensing of notified minerals in India. The country has a peculiar problem in dealing with exploitation of minerals as most of the valuable minerals like iron, coal, magnesium ore, Bauxite etc are under the forests. This overlapping of the mineral maps with the forest maps of the country puts restrictions on exploitations of mineral resources on ecological ground. Further, the catchments of more than 450 rivers and their tributaries are in the forest areas and the stream flow of our rain-fed rivers and recharging of aquifers down streams is largely due to good forest cover in these catchments. These rivers and their catchments are the life line for our food and water security.

For last few years the Karnataka, Orissa and Goa illegal mining activities had been in the mediaglare asthe Supreme Court proceedings had taken central stage. Thanks to the adverse media publicity there has been a general apathy about mining activities in the country being a land destructive activity. However,as mining apart from being essential for developing of local and regional economies and infrastructure, supports a sizeable rural population. The ban on mining imposed by the courts had rendered thousands of people jobless during past many years and tanking the economies with cascading effects. The government of India in 2015 amended theMines and Minerals (Development and Regulation Act) and introduced certain steps to plug the gaps in mineral policy like granting of mineral leases, creation of district mineral foundations and establishment of a National Trust for use of the funds to be levied on mining companies for the use and benefits of local people and farmers adversely affected by the mining and also for rehabilitation of mined out areas. By doing this the government had adopted the recommendations of the Supreme Court appointed committee for conducting Environmental Impact assessment on the Karnataka mining headed by this author in 2011. Similarly, under the Forest Conservation Act adequate provisions are made to ensure rehabilitation and extension of the forests areas and to minimize damages to people, bio-diversity and wildlife.

Indian economy in its quest to become a global economic giant needs scientific and environmentally sustainable mining. Many environmentalistsbelieve that with Apex Court supervising mineral policy and with amendments in the mines and minerals Act and Rules things will be honky dory in the sector. However, the situation is far from satisfactory on the ground. The mineral policy that is controlled by the Central government only covers the major or notified minerals as per the MMRD Act like Iron, Coal, Magnesium, Bauxite, etc. The minor minerals like sand, clay, stones, boulders, marble etc. as per the section 3(e) of the Act are in the domain of state governments. The Government of India had in February, 2015 declared 31 major minerals as “minor” including some strategic minerals like Barytes (used in oil and gas drilling), Bentonite etc. The rising demands of sand and other minor minerals withoutsustainable scientific institutional framework are in the grip of mafias which are growing very fast with political backing.The minor mineral grant is politicized and leases are granted on political consideration resulting in corruption and unscientific exploitation. The fragmented small leases are ringing alarm bells for the rivers and other life sustaining resources. Mining being a destructive activity, one has to bring latest technology and other resources which never are the case in minor mineral exploitation as the leases are mostly of small sizes between even less than 1 hectare and the mine owners have no commitment or capacity for scientific and ecologically sustainable mining. Theunruly mining of sand mafias came to public glare only in 2014 when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned mining all over the country based on the ‘Noida’ sand mining episode.This author has noticed that no governments in Uttarakhand had taken steps to regulate sand mining which is causing immense damage to the sustainability of the rivers and facing stiff opposition in Haridwar and Rishikesh where saints are up in arms for the damages to the river Ganga and its tributaries. In several states incidents of daring attack on regularity authorities has attracted the national media attention. In 2012 one young IPS officer was killed by the mining mafia in Morena while chasing an offender. Recently a Tehsildar and one IFS officer were attacked while stopping the sand mafia again in Madhya Pradesh. On 18th June Punjab foresters were brutally attacked by the mining mafia. The Supreme Court task force on Karnataka mines in a meeting with farmers of Chitradurga and Tumkur districtsin 2011 was told that more damage is being done to the rivers and water bodies by the unscientific sand and stone mining and requested for intervention. The condition of stone and marble mining is same in all states. The beauty of Shillong hills has already been spoiled by the sand and lime stone mafia. On the other hand Tripura farmers in 2014 reported thatban on removal of sand by the NGT is inundating their agriculture fields with sands during rains.

We should however, in the developmental perspective must understand that minor mineral are necessary for the development of local economy as well as maintaining the river beds but a well-structured scientific framework for sand and other minor minerals is an imperative. In Madhya Pradesh, UP and Uttarakhand this author has witnessed that the sand mining is threatening the water availability in rivers and coupled with thinning of forest density and deforestation in catchment areas a severe water crisis is going to be a regular feature during summers. At the same time the silt must be removed from the rivers otherwise it will destroy the stream flow and river course and inundate the adjoining lands and agriculture fields. For the government managers sand mining managementtherefore is a double edged headache for the policy makers and akin to ‘Sophies Choice’(title of 1979 novel by William Styron about a polish woman in Nazi camp who was given the choice which of her two children will live and which will die).Miner minerals need to be tackled a fresh by all stakeholders for sustainable development.Limestone is treated both major and minor mineral depending on their uses for house hold or commercial purposes. On the similar pattern sand need to be treated as a first step and then evolve mandatory institutional technological back up by framing rules under Environmental Protection Act 1986.

Playing with ecological resources is not a good polityand the nation will pay a heavy price for this and generations yet unborn will never forgive us. However, playing ecological politics with forests, rivers and bio-diversity will be a win-win situation for the people and millennium developmental goals. It is therefore, necessary that the Prime Minister starts a new paradigm in developmental economics as “ecological politics” to forge political consensus in the country and to give new direction to our polity and environmental governance. The spiritual unison with plant life like the ‘Brahmkumaris’ have demonstrated in the fields will help ecological politics.(around 1200words)

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03/07/2018 10:10:00Sumitra Dassumitradas.sagar@gmail.comIt's a knowledgeable article about Minor Mineral Policy needs a drastic relooks, keep writing sir
04/07/2018 05:47:43Ramlal Sarkarramlalsarkarscout@gmail.comSir in your article mentions us about its various laws in India's mineral resources. Informational article, Thanks sir. keep writing
04/07/2018 05:57:11Gouri Duttaduttagouri86@gmail.comWe all need to value the environmental resources because these natural resources are very alternative.Thanks for writing this knowledgable article.
04/07/2018 08:02:23Tasmita Ghosh123agartala@gmail.comAfter reading your analytical article on the mineral resources, we know a lot. Thank you so much for giving us the information.
10/07/2018 12:22:36Swapan debswapn1425@gmail.comWe all need to value the environmental resources because these natural resources are very alternative.Thanks for writing this knowledgable article.
12/07/2018 11:04:49Trinat_moy@gmail.comVery Knowledgeable Article, thank you so much share with us this information.
12/07/2018 12:18:11Susmitasusmitachanda93@gmail.comVery informative article, thank to discuss for over this Minor Mineral topic
12/07/2018 12:23:50Deepdeep23@gmail.comFrom this article we have received valuable information about small minerals.Thank You sir.....
12/07/2018 12:27:48Zoyazoya208@gmail.comVery well writing, thank you giving us this information.
13/07/2018 04:11:55Nantu Deynantu987@gmail.comWe all need to value the environmental resources because these natural resources are very alternative.Thanks for writing this knowledgable article

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