Government orders major crackdown on illegal mining, wants 100% penalty levied against mafias exploiting natural resources
The Centre has asked agencies and state governments to recover the entire value of illegally-mined minerals from violators involved in ripping off natural resources
As per section 23C of the Mines and Minerals Act, state governments are empowered to make rules for prevention of illegal mining, transportation and storage of minerals for both major and minor minerals
Similarly, the management of mineral resources is the responsibility of both the Central and state governments
In 2018, more than 1.15 lakh illegal mining cases were registered and currently more than 80,000 court cases are pending across the states
New Delhi: The Centre has asked agencies and state governments to recover the entire value of illegally-mined minerals from violators involved in ripping off natural resources. Currently, the fine imposed by enforcement agencies differs from state to state and from one case to another. Furthermore, it hardly matches the value of minerals siphoned off by the well-oiled network of mafias in states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
After examining cases of large-scale illegal mining since 2013, the Centre has suggested that illegal mining be treated like plundered public property and the total value should be claimed instead of levelling mere token fines, in consonance with national mineral policy that was cleared last year.
The government documents reviewed by Firstpost said, "In case of stolen public property, either the same should be returned to its owner or its entire value should be recovered and reimbursed. This should be implemented at all levels by the mining departments or courts wherein petitions are filed."
As per section 23C of the Mines and Minerals Act, state governments are empowered to make rules for prevention of illegal mining, transportation and storage of minerals for both major and minor minerals. Similarly, the management of mineral resources is the responsibility of both the Central and state governments (as per entry 54 of the Union List of the Constitution) to ensure that valuable natural resources must promote domestic industry, reduce import dependency and feed into the 'Make in India' initiative.
Citing a Supreme Court judgment of 2017, the documents said it is also necessary to use technology for maintenance of registers, records and data through computers, satellite imagery, videography and other technology tools, so that the natural wealth of the country is not exploited for the benefit of a few to the detriment of a large number, many of whom are tribals inhabiting the land for several generations.
According to the documents, state governments in the past five years were able to recover merely Rs 3,851 crore from mining mafias involved in more than 4.1 lakh illicit mining cases. It is pertinent to mention that the total value of mineral production — excluding atomic and fuel minerals — in 2017-18 was estimated at Rs 1.13 lakh crore. As per the amended rules, penal provisions have been made stringent by introducing higher penalties and jail terms up to five years, but that has failed to deter illegal mining activities across the country.
In 2018, more than 1.15 lakh illegal mining cases were registered and currently more than 80,000 court cases are pending across the states. This is despite the fact that the new mineral policy and amendments to the Act have made provision for the constitution of special courts by the state government for speedy trial of cases related to illegal mining. Even, the number of police cases is very low in certain states like Odisha where only two cases were lodged, but illegal mining is rampant. The CPI (Maoist) extorts a considerable 'levy' from various illegal mining mafia groups in the Naxal-affected states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. The government has also prohibited illegal beach sand mining which falls under the category of atomic minerals, but hundreds of cases have been registered against mining mafias in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra.
The documents said any illegal mining activity should be treated as a clear violation of existing laws and agencies should recover the 100 percent cost of stolen resources. "Only one type of compensation — that is 100 percent — will be payable even by the mining lease holder who is involved in unlawful mining without forest or environment clearance," the documents said.
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