Illegal mining along Konkan coast
A Mumbai-based mining company has been extracting at least 10 times more bauxite ore than it is allowed to from a village in Ratnagiri and continues mining though its lease ran out in November 2009.india Updated: Jan 02, 2011 23:36 IST
A Mumbai-based mining company has been extracting at least 10 times more bauxite ore than it is allowed to from a village in Ratnagiri and continues mining though its lease ran out in November 2009.
The result, revenue loss running into crores of rupees and damage to a fragile ecosystem along the Konkan coast.
Documents with the HT show that the company, Ashapura Minechem Limited, has been mining bauxite ore, one of India’s biggest exports, from a 171-hectare mine on a hilltop in Sakhari Velas, 215km south of Mumbai, since June 2005.
Ashapura Minechem refused to respond to phone calls, text messages or emails. The company had promised to respond to an email from HT by Saturday morning but did not. Another email and a text message on Sunday did not elicit response either.
Mining along the Konkan coast is under the scanner of the Union environment ministry following reports of illegalities. The state-appointed Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel had also raised queries about large-scale mining leases granted in this region.
Ashapura Minechem was given permission to mine 4,000 tonnes of bauxite ore every month. The company’s records show it mined more than 10 times the limit, often going up to 62,000 tonnes a month, for more than five years.
The company started mining in June 2005, but has submitted records for 29 months. In these months too, the company’s records show it produced 860,369 tonnes of bauxite ore when it should have mined only 116,000 tonnes.
The company also paid the state less royalty than it should have. Records with the Ratnagiri district collectorate show the company has paid Rs1.75 crore as royalty since June 2005. “Roughly, the royalty collected since June 2005 should be around Rs 7crore to Rs8 crore, going by the norms prescribed by the Indian Bureau of Mines,” district mining officer, Abhay Bhoge, said.
Government sources said these were conservative estimates because there were no records of how much bauxite ore the company had extracted since it started mining.
Bhoge said the administration had detected violations in the way the company had demarcated the mining area. “An inquiry into the matter is pending,” he said.
Collector Madhukar B Gaikwad said he would have to look into the matter.
VS Sawakhande, director, state directorate of geology and mining, said: “I remember there were some violations by this company, and I also recollect that we had taken action against them. Since I don’t have those records, I won’t be able to tell you the details. But, it’s true that there were violations.”
Despite this, Ashapura was given renewal licences to operate two mines near Sakhari Velas — at Umbershet and Rovale — in 2009.