Concerned over the environment impact of rampant mining of minor minerals such as sand and fuller earth, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has asked the states to amend rules for such activities in line with the guidelines framed by his ministry.
In letters written to all chief ministers, Ramesh said "as there is no uniform framework to regulate the mining of minor minerals, my ministry has evolved a set of guidelines for their sustainable mining."
He said the guidelines were formulated on the basis of recommendations of a group constituted under the environment secretary last year as mining of minor minerals has been increasing over the years and was starting to have a significant adverse impact on our ecology.
A re-look on the classification of major and minor minerals, fixing minimum size of mine and minimum period of mine lease, a mandatory mine plan and rehabilitation of mined out area are among the suggestions made by the taskforce.
The task force suggested that the Mining Ministry along with the Bureau of Mines in consultation with the state governments re-examine the classification of minerals.
"The minerals should be classified into major and minor categories on the basis of their economic value instead of end-usage," says the report, according to a senior environment official.
It substantiated its view by pointing out that in cases of minor minerals like silica sand and limestone, the scale of mechanisation and production level was much higher than those of industrial mineral mines.
Boulder, shingle, brick-earth, fuller''s earth, marble, stone used for making utensils, ordinary earth, road metal, line shell, kankar and limestone used in kilns for manufacture of lime used as building material are some of the minor minerals presently identified by the government.
The 16-member group has suggested that minimum size of mine lease should be five hectares and minimum period of mine lease should be five years, the official said.
"It is also recommended that mine plan, as in the case of major minerals, should be made mandatory for minor minerals as well.