If the Government wants to curb illegal mining in the State, and Bellary district in particular, it should strengthen the Department of Mines and Geology and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), K. Jairaj, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government, has said.
Mr. Jairaj headed a high-level committee to investigate charges against officials in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining.
The committee, in its report to Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath, has pointed out the failure of field-level authorities to monitor mining operations as specified in the leases approved by the Union Government under the MMDR Act.
“The absence of supervision led to the series of illegalities. One explanation for this is the woefully deficient staff strength of the Department of Mines and Geology. The committee was astonished to learn that one Deputy Director in the department, with a minimum complement of support staff, oversaw more than 90 mining leases in the sprawling Bellary district,” Mr. Jairaj said.
Similarly, the KSPCB has only one district-level environment officer to monitor compliance of mining companies with various environmental regulations.
In this context, Mr. Jairaj said the committee proposed immediate reinforcement of field staff by appointing 26 deputy directors and assistant engineers each, 225 senior geologists, 39 geologists and other supporting officers.
The committee suggested greater coordination between the departments of Mines and Geology, Forest, Revenue, Commercial Taxes, Ports, Police and Transport for curbing illegalities and irregularities.
These departments ought to put in place systems for sharing data and formulate joint teams to tackle illegal mining, it said.
It also advocated computerisation for integrating various activities of the departments and setting up a task force under the Secretary, Department of e-governance, for the purpose.
The committee has recommended an online e-permit system for transporting iron ore and manganese, and issue of smart cards. The Forest Department has developed the ‘forest produce tracking system' for this.
Besides, the Transport Department has sought permission to install weight-in-motion bridges along routes in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts where iron ore is transported. It also suggests similar technology at border check posts, installation of GPRS and setting up truck terminals.
An ‘environment protection fee' has been introduced on lessees of non-forest government land and patta land.
The report suggested that in the future, mining for iron and manganese ore be allowed on land of 25 hectare and above.