The Rajasthan government has approached the Union government and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to procure environmental clearances for 16,000 closed mines.
Work at as many as 30,288 mines across the state was stopped after they failed to get environmental clearances, affecting about 25 lakh employees.
Even as the NGT’s deadline for getting environmental clearances expired on May 31, chief minister Vasundhara Raje sent two of her ministers to Delhi to make a case for the state government. Mines minister Rajkumar Rinwa and public health engineering department minister Kiran Maheshwari met Union minister for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar, and requested that environmental clearances for 16,000 of the closed mines be issued at the earliest.
Mining department officials had filed a plea before the NGT on Tuesday, seeking relief for 16,000 mining lease holders who applied for environment clearance before the stipulated date of March 31, 2016.
According to an official, only 2,707 of 32,995 mines have received the mandated environmental clearances till now. Though 16,000 mine owners applied for environmental clearances before March 31, their applications remain pending with the competent authority, he added.
The official said 14,000 mines, whose owners had not even applied for environmental clearance, were already shut after the department issued notices on May 6, 2016.
Rana Sengupta of the Mine Labour Protection Campaign criticised the government for neglecting the needs of mine workers. “The case has been dragging on in the NGT for 18 months. The state was aware of the notification. It should have procured the environmental clearances much in advance,” Sengupta told HT.
On May 4, 2016, the NGT had directed local authorities and the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority to dispose of all applications by May 31. The bench – headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar – ordered that the mines of leaseholders who did not apply for environmental clearance by March 31, 2016, be shut down with immediate effect.
Mining operations are conducted in Rajasthan for a wide spectrum of mineral deposits, including marble, quartzite, calc silicate, lead, zinc, sandstone, shale and limestone. About 58 different kinds of major and minor minerals are produced in the state, amounting to an annual revenue of over Rs 4,000 crore.
Total number of mines: 32,995
Mines with environmental clearance: 2707
Mines without environmental clearance: 14,000
Mines with environmental clearance pending: 16,000
Mine labour in state: 25 lakh