Beach sand mining for extraction of heavy minerals is an economically profitable as well as eco-friendly activity and the Indian government should take steps to prevent use of mineral-rich sands for other activities and encourage the industry, president of the Mining Engineers’ Association of India Arjeth Bagchi has said.

At the end of the three-day International Heavy Minerals Conference in Visakhapatnam on Friday, he said it was the conclusion of the speakers at the conference, and he expressed happiness that it had gone very well.

“Fortunately, the cyclone threat receded and the deliberations are very fruitful. We will finalise the recommendations to the Government of India after studying the views of all the Indian and foreign delegates,” he said.

He said the Government of India had formulated the beach sand mining policy guidelines in 1998.

“But we feel not enough progress has been made due to various factors. The proposals have not fructified and, therefore, the government should now take proactive steps to promote the industry.”

‘No harm to turtles’

Areas such as Srikakulam could be developed only if the government allowed such activity, Mr Bagchi said. “The industry is responsible and takes all the precautions to conserve the ecology and it should not be stifled,” he added.

On the concluding day, Sujata, a representative of Trimex Sands, spoke about the steps being taken to protect the nesting places of Olive Ridley turtles along the beach in Srikakulam district near the project area.

“It is a sporadic nesting zone for the turtles between November and March, according to researchers from Andhra University. Even then, we are taking all steps to leave the turtles undisturbed during the period. We have constituted an eco-promotion cell involving local people to conserve them,” she explained. She spoke at length about the corporate social responsibility initiatives of the company in the area, including providing dialysis services to patients with kidney ailments.

Mohandas of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board spoke about the radiological issues related to beach sand mining.

He said only monazite, a mineral extracted from the sands, contained in very small quantities thorium and uranium, but even then its processing was not being allowed to prevent any exposure to radiation.

He spoke about the methods being used to dispose it, the stringent guidelines laid down for the purpose, and the enforcement mechanism.

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