58 mining blocks in Jhelum to be given to locals as outside companies fail to get EC

Govt to allow lifting of loose material from banned quarries

Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar, June 17: The Government is mulling to cancel the 58 e-auctioned minor mineral blocks of river Jhelum that were allotted to outside Jammu and Kashmir companies after they failed to get Environmental Clearance (EC) and these blocks will now be opened for traditional mining by locals.
According to the minutes (No: 986/MCC/DGM/GMM/20/1284-85 dated 15-06-2021) of the recently held meeting of the Geology and Mining Department in Srinagar, it was decided to revive the traditional, customary sand mining by identifying the rightful beneficiaries. “The proposal once finalised shall be forwarded to GOI for consideration”, read minutes of the meeting.
The decision was taken after the delay in execution of sand blocks of river Jhelum created a large gap in demand and supply affecting the livelihood of thousands of people traditionally associated with sand extraction leading to increase in the incidents of illegal mining, besides hampering the progress of important infrastructure development projects.
The Government is mulling to cancel the e-auction process and refund the 50 percent bid amount to the successful bidders of these blocks. These blocks were e-auctioned last year and majority went to outside J&K companies. “Other blocks for which EC has been denied shall also be examined for early decision on case to case basis”, the minutes read.
The meeting also decided that in order to avoid the illegal lifting and transportation and loss to Government exchequer, the loose material in banned quarry belts of Athwajan and Pantha Chowk shall be considered for disposal by granting permits to the erstwhile quarry holders.
“… subject to the condition that the loose quarry material shall be made available for important National Projects/ Government works in accordance with the rules. No mining would be allowed. Proposals for getting due clearances will be examined in light of reports in this matter”, read the minutes of the meeting.
It has been decided that the Department of Geology and Mining should charge royalty from the Brick kilns on actual extraction, consumption of brick earth and any accumulated outstanding shall also be recovered from them.
The meeting was informed that so far 98 e-auctioned minor mineral blocks have been granted the EC, out of which 64 leases are operational. Commissioner/ Secretary Geology and Mining, Manoj Kumar stressed for more concerted efforts to clear the cases for EC and fixed the target of 120 ECs and 106 operational mines at the end of this month with special emphasis on Kashmir as only 14 mining leases of minor mineral blocks have been granted in the Valley so far.
The meeting also stressed for Mine Surveillance System (MSS), a satellite-based monitoring system for minerals, so as to prevent illegal mining in J&K. “Besides the proposal for GPS tracking of vehicles involved in transportation of minerals shall also be prepared”, read the minutes.
The meeting decided to go for on spot compounding of the vehicles with the approval of competent authority in case there is issue of non-availability of space in the Police Station for retention of seized vehicles.
“However, it was reiterated that the mechanism of on spot compounding should not be misused. It was also discussed that the owner should be recorded as the offender rather than the driver of the vehicle to achieve deterrence more effectively”, read the minutes of the meeting.
The meeting decided that illegal mining to be checked at all places to prevent loss to the State exchequer, demarcation of all leased out blocks be undertaken and completed in a time bound manner for ensuring operationalization of the mines as early as possible.
“Necessary action as warranted under rules be taken against unauthorized persons extracting minor minerals from the area adjacent to the e-auctioned minor mineral blocks including filing of FIRs. Any laxity in the matter on part of the concerned SHO shall be viewed seriously”, read the minutes of the meeting.