Probe to look into alleged irregularities in 71 mineral quarries in the southern districts

Moments after receiving an enquiry report on alleged illicit mining of beach minerals in six lease areas of the Tuticorin district, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday ordered yet another probe into the functioning of garnet, ilmenite and rutile mines in 71 other such areas located in different parts of the State.

This time too, the probe team will be headed by Revenue Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi, who was in charge of the enquiry in Tuticorin.

The 71 other lease areas fall under Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Tiruchi and Madurai districts. Apart from coastal areas, beach minerals, also called major minerals, are found along certain river courses in the State.

This is why Tiruchi and Madurai, both interior regions, have been included.

Garnet is used as gemstones besides being employed for abrasives; ilmenite is the major source of titanium and rutile, a commercially important titanium mineral, is used in porcelain and glass manufacture.

A statement issued by the Chief Minister said that till the fresh enquiry was completed, the working of the mines would be suspended and transport permits would not be given. She asked officials to issue suitable orders in this regard.

On getting a report on the major minerals, the government would take a policy decision on mines of these minerals, she added.

The issue of alleged irregularities in mines of beach minerals came to the fore after former Tuticorin Collector Ashish Kumar conducted inspections at a private sand quarry early last month.

The Chief Minister subsequently constituted a probe team under the chairmanship of Mr Bedi and directed the team to submit its report in a month.

The team, comprising officials of Revenue, Environment and Forests, and Geology and Mines departments, carried out inspections in three phases, from August 12 to August 30.

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