Crackdown on illegal mining spikes sand prices: Punjab govt

1 Apr 2017

Punjab government today said crackdown on illegal mining has led to spike in prices of sand and gravel in the state and will come down after more legal mines become operational. Chairing a review meeting on mining here today, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said the recent spike in prices of sand and gravel, triggered by his government's crackdown on illegal mining, would get reversed as more legal mines become operational over the next few days. The Congress-led state government has come down heavily on the mining mafia and initiated several measures to curb illegal mining in the state, an official spokesperson of the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said. "This has led to a temporary spike in the price of sand/ bajri, with even the legally operated mines cutting down on production as an excessively step in the face of the government action," the spokesperson. During the meeting, the Chief Minister directed the officials to formulate a new transparent mining policy within 30 days and asked them to submit its draft for review. Officials of the Directorate of Mines, Department of Industries and Commerce, made a detailed presentation at the meeting highlighting the mining situation in the state and the measures being taken to check illegal mining. The meeting was also attended by Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh among others. Various measures to improve supply situation, including increase in number of legal mines, using modern digging techniques and enforcement of stringent rules to ensure that illegal mining becomes unviable were discussed at the meeting, the spokesperson said. It was suggested that permits for desilting and dredging of sand be given to the irrigation department to augment sand supply and make 'bajri' available at affordable rates. The officials informed Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that 59 mines are ready for auction and a 15-day notice has already been issued for the purpose. Auction will be held on April 18, and allotment will take place on April 20. These mises will be operational by May 20. Another 58 mines, whose environmental clearance is currently pending, are likely to be auctioned within 60 days thereafter, and will become operational by mid-August. Introduction of pre-qualification criteria for mining was mulled during the meeting to ensure transparency in auction of the mines. Steps to secure speedy environmental clearances for new mines and better coordination of enforcement measures were some of the other suggestions discussed at the meeting, the spokesperson said. An SP rank officer and two DSP rank officers have been appointed in each district to check illegal mining, the spokesman said. A District Mining Helpline with dedicated mobile and landline numbers, and email ID is being set up, in addition to a PB-GRAMS portal for filing complaints about illegal mining. Use of modern tools will also help check pilferage, the officials concerned said in the meeting. Since the equipment used for illegal mining is released by lower courts soon after its confiscation, the meeting decided to request the Department of Home Affairs and Justice to constitute special courts for the speedy trial, the spokesperson said.(PTI)