A majority of granite quarries in the district faces the threat of closure in the wake of the recent high court order making environment clearance mandatory for quarrying in the State.
According to official sources, 50 of the 65 licenced quarries in the district have been functioning without any environment clearance and this is besides a host of medium and large illegal quarries. Hardly 15 quarries in the district that had submitted the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Environment Department had got the required environment clearance, they said.
Earlier, the Mining and Geology Department was of the view that those granite quarries that had not even conducted any EIA could continue operation on the basis of the relaxation extended to them by the State government.
However, with the recent court order, the department would have to change its stance and issue closure order to all quarries without EIA.
The Supreme Court order of February 27, 2012 categorically states that mining of minor minerals like granite should undergo environment impact assessment and environment clearance procedure under the Environment Protection Act of 1986. Earlier, the procedure was applicable only to mining leases for five hectares (ha) or more in the case of minor minerals.
The Supreme Court maintained that the collective impact of mining minor minerals in a particular area over a period of time might be significant.
In its recent judgment, the Single Bench of the Kerala High Court chaired by Justice Vinod Chandran said there had been a “tacit attempt’’ by the State government to grant renewal of short-term permits against specific prohibition by the Supreme Court, the High Court, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
The court maintained that the State’s attempts were against the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957, Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2006, and the office memorandum of the MoEF of May 18, 2012.
The recent High Court order would bring an end to bypassing of the prevailing laws, rules and guidelines for granite quarrying.