The Rajasthan government has not been able to utilise Rs. 219 crore collected over the past three years from around 30,000 mining license holders and meant for use to protect the ecology, the high court has heard.
The government made the submission before the Rajasthan high court in reply to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a social activist who sought details of money collected by the mines department and how the funds were utilised.
Rajasthan has the largest area under mining in the country but the state also has had to pay a heavy price by way of environmental degradation due to unregulated mining.
The state government is also grappling with legal wrangles over indiscriminate mining in the state.
Under the Rajasthan minor mineral concession rules, 1986, every licensee has to deposit a royalty besides making a contribution to the environment management fund. “The state mines department began collecting the cess from June, 2012 and it was to be spent on ensuring environmentallyfriendly measures to be taken at mining sites,” said Sandeep Shah, the counsel for the petitioner.
The environment management fund rates were fixed as Rs. 10 per tonne of mineral dispatch for limestone of Kota and Jhalawar districts, as well as for marble and granite.
For ordinary earth, the rate was Rs 1 per tonne of mineral dispatch and for all other minerals, the rate was Rs 5 per tonne of mineral dispatch.
The affidavit spells out details of funds collected from the different mining zones.
Vijay Pal Singh, joint secretary, mines, said the money could not be spent due to procedural issues. “The environment plans had to be made, then they had to be approved at the district level, then at the state level and then sent for finance department approval. The process takes time.” Singh said the government plans to spend the money as designated after getting clearance from court.
Shah said the funds were to be allotted by district level environment committee for environment development work to the concerned associations or clusters or to an agency to whom such work is assigned.
The funds were to be used by mine-owners to carry out protection measures like utilisation of top soil, storage of waste rock, reclamation and rehabilitation of land affected by mining operations, precautions against air pollution, precautions against discharge of toxic effluents from quarries or mines, restoration of flora and setting up plantation in 5% of leased out area, water management and water harvesting at the site to recharge ground water, and organise health camps for workers, provide them insurance and other facilities like crèche, schools hospitals.