The Uttarakhand government on Saturday approved a new mining policy in order to earn more revenue through open bidding and end the stranglehold of the land mafia.

In the new policy, the first right of quarrying on up to 5 hectares of land would be given to its owner and no individual will be leased out the quarrying right for two areas, principal secretary industries Rakesh Sharma told reporters here after a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister B C Khanduri.

The government would now give land on open bidding on all those reserved areas where its main three agencies - Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) and Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation (UFDC) do not carry any river-bed mining.

For the environmental purpose, the government has banned mining/quarrying on 15 meters areas from both the banks of the river.

The government has also decided to set up a watchdog to monitor the mining process in view of large scale illegal mining activities and environmental concerns.

The cabinet decision to bring the new mining/quarrying policy, locally known as “khanan” came in order to end the foothold of the illegal operators which cause considerable revenue loss to the state.

The fresh surveys for mining are also being conducted to identify mining areas in the state and all the district magistrates have been asked to send their reports in this regard. A total of 900 hectare of area has already been identified in Dehra Dun alone for mining purposes.

A section of the forest officials are of the view that the mining through auction process can provide higher revenue generation to the hill state to the tune of Rs 300-400 crore. At present, the government only earns Rs 100-150 crore through the collection of stones, boulders and other minor minerals from various rivers that include the Ganga in the State.

Environmentalists here feel that the river-bed mining helps in checking floods in the river due to over-deposition of boulders, silt and other sandy materials.

The High Court had also directed the State government to formulate a new mining policy in view of mounting environmental concerns and involvement of land mafia in the business.