The Centre has asked all state governments to constitute high-level committees to crack down on illegal mining and intensify the drive against the menace.

“In the wake of a large number of illegal mining cases coming to the fore, we have asked all states to immediately constitute coordination-cum-empowered committees,” Mines Secretary Santha Sheela Nair said.

She said that these committees, in line with a similar panel at the Centre, would prepare action plans to prevent illegal mining.

So far, only nine states -- Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and West Bengal -- have constituted committees to address issues such as illegal mining and faster processing of mineral concessions.

The states were told that the committees should be headed by either chief secretaries or additional chief secretaries.

At present, there are not enough legal provisions for Central intervention in illegal mining across the states, while the magnitude of the problem is so great that as many as 42,000 cases were detected in 11-mineral bearing states last year.

The Centre has asked the states to report all instances of illegal mining and use satellite imagery to detect such activities. It had also asked for cells to be set up to monitor price trends, as a spurt in prices is usually linked to increased illegal mining activities.

“We have directed states to set up cells to monitor iron and manganese ore prices, as a spurt in prices often indicates an increase in mining activities. We have found that a lot of mining takes place using legal licenses for mining in areas other than specified,” Ms. Nair said.

The states have also been asked to track the movement of vehicles carrying minerals, and use bar codes and holograms on transport permits.

Other directions, she said, include the collection of information from ports, customs authorities and the Ministry of Commerce on export of ores and compulsory registration of all end-users to check payment of royalty before purchase of ores. The state governments have also been asked to finalise mineral concessions faster.

Ms. Nair said that though the move to curb illegal mining may result in a slight dip in iron ore production, it would increase in time due to the opening of new mines. The country produced 226 million tonnes of iron ore in the last fiscal.

Meanwhile, a provision that has been added to the new mining legislation states that anyone found guilty of illegal mining will be debarred from doing it anywhere in the country.

Keywords: illegal mining

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