Escalating sand and gravel prices in Punjab are likely to fall as the state government has approved 63 sites of less than 5 hectares each to operate in accordance with the newly notified Punjab Minor Mineral Rules 2013.
Of the total 209 notified sites in category C (less than 5 hectares) across the state, the mining wing of the industries department gave its clearance to 63 sites, okaying the environment management plans (EMPs) of contractors.
With this development, the ban on mining has partially been lifted in the state, with the fate of Category B (5-50 hectares) and Category A (more than 50 hectares) still hanging in the balance.
The contractors for less than 5 hectares were asked to submit EMPs for clearance under rule 41 of the new rules, after which district-level committees headed by deputy commissioners were in the process of clearing the sites after physical inspection under rule 61, a senior official of the industries department said here.
The Punjab Pollution Control Board's role in certifying these category C sand mines has now been limited as its nod would be certain after the EMP clearance by the industries department and district-level committees.
Under the new rules, every mining site would have a weighing scale to regulate the extraction of specific quantum of sand at each site, varying from one quarry to another.
The state government has notified the new rules with the aim of "making sure that people get sand, gravel and bricks at very nominal rates".
Of the 63 sites, 21 got clearance in Ferozepur district, followed by Pathankot (10 sites), Ludhiana (6), Amritsar (5), Tarn Taran, Nawanshahr and Moga (4 each), Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur (3 each), Fazilka (2) and Rupnagar (1).
Of these, 11 sites are for mining gravel 8 in Pathankot, two in Gurdaspur and one in Hoshiarpur.
The functioning of eight quarries of category B, including gravel mining as well, is also in the pipeline and would be given the green signal by next month, senior officials of the department said.
Of the 89 category-A sites in the state, the union ministry of environment has given the clearance to 55, setting specific terms and conditions to run them in accordance with environmental norms.
Most of the category A and B sites also have stone crushers for gravel, which were halted in August last year due to the blanket ban on mining following strictures of the Punjab and Haryana high court.