Anti-pollution body knew of illegal mining

  • Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times, Sakhari Velas
  • |
  • Updated: Jan 04, 2011 01:11 IST

The state pollution control board had initially stopped Ashapura Minechem Limited from illegally mining bauxite ore at Sakhari Velas village at Ratnagiri, 215kms south of Mumbai, but subsequently granted the company consent to mine.

Documents with the Hindustan Times reveal that the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had in April 2005 served the Mumbai-based company a stop-work notice for mining bauxite at the 171-hectare site without obtaining consent from the MPCB or the central government.

The notice, which HT has a copy of, said: "You [the company] are carrying out mining activities without obtaining consent to operate from MPCB and environmental clearance from the ministry of environment and forests."

The HT had reported on Monday that Ashapura Minechem has been extracting at least 10 times more bauxite ore than it is allowed to from Sakhari Velas and continues mining although its lease expired in November 2009.

The company has also caused the state revenue loss running into crores of rupees because it has not paid the royalty it was bound to. 

Two weeks after the notice was issued, when Ashapura replied assuring the MPCB of better conduct, the board granted the company conditional mining consent for 60 days.

In June, before the 60-day period could expire, the pollution board gave the company consent to mine 4,000 tonnes a year for four years.

Despite repeated pleas, Ashapura Minechem refused to respond to phone calls, text messages and email. 

An MPCB official at the sub-regional office in Chiplun, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the board had followed the rulebook.

"When we found that the company had mined without a permit, we immediately told it to stop work and apply for consent. If it applies for consent following all norms, we don't have a reason to deny it," the officer said.

VS Sawakhande, director, state directorate of geology and mining, agreed that the company had violated norms in 2005 and faced action but was unable to say why consent was renewed.

Local activists claim illegal mining has been going on at the site since 2003. "We had repeatedly complained against the mining that was being carried out by the company at Sakhari Velas.

Instead of blacklisting the company or penalizing it, the MPCB gave it consent to operate, as if it was rewarding it," local activist Milind Nijsure, who first noticed and lodged complaints against the mining in 2003, said.

After obtaining the MPCB's consent, the company started mining flouting the main condition that it could mine only 4,000 tonnes and mined ten times more, once even going up 62,000 tonnes in a month.


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