Panel set up to verify licences

A committee headed by the Additional District Magistrate has been constituted to carry out a safety audit of mining operations in the 181 quarries in the district.

The committee, which will have the District Geologist and the District Officer of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) as members, has been set up in the wake of the five deaths in the quarries near Vilappilsala and Vembayam recently. It has been asked to verify the various licences mandatory for the quarry operations on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

The applicants can submit their documents at the ADM's office at the Collectorate from Monday. The committee, on the basis of fulfilment of the criteria, will allow the quarries to operate on a case-to-case basis, District Collector and District Magistrate Dinesh Arora told The Hindu.

Details on website

Information about the quarries that had been cleared for conducting operations would be provided to the local tahsildar, Circle Inspector of the police and grama panchayat secretary concerned. The details would also be published on the website The Collector would take the final decision on appeals against the committee's conclusion.

Mr. Arora said illegal and unscientific cutting and blasting were being undertaken in the quarries in the district. To ensure the health and safety of the people, he had banned blasting operations in all the quarries in the district, including those having legal licences.

For quarry mining, the operators should fulfil technical and non-technical norms, sources said. They should have approved mining lease no-objection certificate from the Department of Mining and Geology of the State government. In case of revenue land, the land objection certificate from the Revenue Department was also needed.

After obtaining the mining lease from the Department of Mining and Geology, the operators should acquire an ‘explosive licence' from the Controller of Explosives, Chennai, or get clearance for entering into an agreement with an approved licence holder to store explosives. The operator should then obtain ‘Blast man Licence' from the Director-General of Mines Safety (DGMS) based at Bangalore.

On the non-technical front, the operators should obtain consent to conduct operations from the State PCB and the grama panchayat, municipality, or Corporation concerned.

To get the DGMS approval, the operators should submit a surface plan for the approved mining lease area.

Mr. Arora said the operators should appoint competent mining personnel as specified in the rules laid out by the Department of Mines Safety.

The rules specified the mode of operation for all type of mines. The depth of quarrying face should not exceed 20 feet from the surface. The mining surface should be free from overburden material (weathered rock, boulders and soil).

The Mining and Geologist officer had reported to the Collector that the quarries that had complied with the technical criteria could operate safely, and accidents rarely occurred in such quarries. Moreover, the emergency measures employed under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure were also applicable to those quarries that complied with the guidelines.

Dr. Arora said the safety audit would help identify illegal quarries and penal provisions and revenue recovery could be initiated against them.