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TN to constitute Special Investigation Team to probe illegal mining since 2000-01

Chennai, Feb 24 (BPNS)

Tamil Nadu government is to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe illegal mining since 2000-01 and to recover an amount of about Rs 5832.44 crore from private beach sand mineral exporters.

The government has appealed to the Madras High Court to get a clearance to seize 1.55 crore tonnes of stock and hand them over to Indian Rare Earths Limited.

State industries secretary, S. Krishnan said that the district collectors of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, and Kanniyakumari would be directed to recover the losses. The collectors would also be directed to lodge complaints against the miners before the special courts concerned for violation of the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957.

Tamil Nadu government had banned the mining license given to companies after large-scale complaints were received. 64 Mining licenses were given to 7 miners in Tamil Nadu with 52 licenses in Tirunelveli and 6 each in Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari districts. All these were withdrawn since 2013 after complaints were raised from local people against large-scale illegal sand mining.

A special committee headed by IAS officer Satyabrata Sahoo was constituted by the Madras High Court in 2017 to assess stocks available with the Private miners. The team filed a report in 2018 stating that 1.55 crore tonnes of excess sand were in stock with the miners.

The committee also found a major difference of 69.89 lakh tonnes that had been declared by the miners and the stocks that were available. The amicus curie after studying various reports found that the miners had caused a loss of Rs 3829.76 crore during the period before the ban( 2000- 2013) and also assessed a loss of Rs 2002.67 crore during the post-ban period (2013-2016). The amicus curie also assessed that miners were exporting the minerals to foreign countries even after the ban on mining and transportation of the minerals in the state.

The Tirunelveli district collector had written to Customs officials in Kochi, New Mangalore, and Vishakhapattanam ports not to allow illegal miners from Tamil Nadu to export.

The Industries secretary informed the Madras High Court that the quantity of minerals was being reassessed and that the work would get completed in two weeks.