Tamil Nadu

‘37,024 tonnes of monazite can be extracted from beach sand stored by private miners’

Monazite is a radioactive atomic mineral used for production of thorium and can be extracted from several lakh tonnes of raw/processed/semi-processed sand. File  

The Madras High Court has directed the State government and private beach sand mineral exporters to respond to a claim made by an amicus curiae that 37,024 tonnes of monazite, a radioactive atomic mineral used for production of thorium, can be extracted from several lakh tonnes of raw/processed/semi-processed sand now lying in the sealed godowns, stockyards and factories in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts.

First Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu took serious note of the submissions made by amicus curiae V. Suresh that “it is a matter of concern that these stocks which are ostensibly ready for sale/export contains such high concentration and quantity of monazite. The possibility of clandestine sale of processed minerals mixed with monazite is not a hypothetical issue but something requiring investigation by competent agencies”.

The amicus curiae also told the court that over 88.40 lakh tonnes of raw sand appeared to have been mined illegally by some of the mining companies from the year 2000 till 2013 when the State government imposed a complete ban on beach sand mining activity in the three districts. He claimed that the illegality continued even thereafter and came to a grinding halt only when the court ordered strict enforcement of the ban in November 2016.

Acceding to a request made by Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram to grant him time to deal with the report of the amicus curiae, the judges said: “The State will deal with the report, along with the counter affidavits to be filed by the individual mining operators, by way of a status report to be filed within three weeks from date. The State will indicate, in particular, the extent of vigilance now exercised in the three southernmost coastal districts.”

Union Govt. impleaded

The Bench also impleaded the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board as respondents to a suo motu public interest litigation petition pending in the court since 2016 and observed that the latter could also file an independent report on the action taken by it with respect to the perceived illegal mining.

The orders were passed after Mr. Suresh filed a summary of the proceedings since 2016. He told the court that illegal mining and transportation of garnet, ilmenite, rutile, zircon, sillimanite and leucoxene had been happening since 2000. He feared that even the prohibited mineral monazite could have been clandestinely sold by the mining companies by mixing it with processed minerals. He noted that the State Government had banned the mining activity in 2013 and appointed IAS officer Gangandeep Singh Bedi to study illegal mining. “Though, on paper, there was a ban, it was found that illegal mining, processing, transport and sale was going on unhindered during the so-called ban period between September 2013 and November 2016...It was only after orders were passed by this court in November 2016 that the authorities swung into action to enforce the ban.”

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 5:01:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/37024-tonnes-of-monazite-can-be-extracted-from-beach-sand-stored-by-private-miners/article37480983.ece

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