Illegal extraction of minerals
Post by RK News on Monday, April 10, 2023
On Saturday, Awantipora police arrested 16 persons involved in illegal extraction and transportation of minerals. During the operation sixteen vehicles used for illegal mining were confiscated by the authorities. Over the years, unabated mining has become a major environmental issue in the valley. It has a direct bearing upon the losses in the Union Territory. Many experts are of the opinion that illegal mining results in massive revenue loss to the public exchequer. It is a fact that unregulated and illegal mining of minerals such as sand is undertaken without the proper permission from the concerned authorities. Growth in infrastructure for over a decade has led to immense demand for sand across the UT. As an essential material used in commercial as well as non-commercial constructions, sand prices skyrocketed in the last few years, particularly in Kashmir valley. It has led to increased activities since the mining from river beds is relatively easy. With the concerned department officials not doing enough, the losses to the UT have also grown in size over the years. Soon after the devastating floods in 2014, the dredging of Jhelum was carried out in haste. Many illegal miners who could extract and transport the material in the valley joined the business. While the authorities failed to implement proper licensing of sand extraction, the number of miners only grew. The Irrigation Department didn’t lose a chance to brag about removing the excessive sand from the river bed. But it didn’t put to use its wisdom to fetch money from the mineral thus removed. With thousands of tonnes of sand removed from the river and put alongside, the quarries soon became gold mines for traders. In just a few years the price of a truck load carrying about 200 cubic ft of sand increased from Rs 5000 to as much as Rs 8000. The cost of transportation and labor together being not more than 30 percent of the sale value, the miners are minting money. Hundreds of truckloads are sold by miners and most of them do not have a license or pay any fee. Unregulated mining of sand has also caused environmental problems in many areas where the mineral is lifted. Health concerns have also been raised since there is spillover of the mineral while it is being transported. Dust and pollution near sand quarries is quite visible. The government must come up with a proper policy on the extraction of minerals like sand in the UT and ensure that licenses are granted on the basis of merit. All vehicles ferrying the mineral illegally extracted or obtained must be seized by the law enforcement wings. Even if it doesn’t contribute in a major way to the economy, these loopholes from which the money is slipping need to be plugged. Govt and the concerned authorities need to expedite efforts to curb illegal mining activities in the UT.