Ashapura Minechem Limited has been violating several norms while mining in Sakhari Velas village in Ratnagiri, but that did not come in the way of the company getting renewal licences to operate two mines near Sakhari Velas - at Umbershet and Rovale - in 2009.
The Mumbai-based company has been accused of several irregularities. In its recent report on the coastal districts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, led by noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil, had mentioned the Sakhari Velas site saying its environmental clearance had expired in November 2009 but locals had reported that mining activity had continued and more bauxite was being mined than permitted. It also said that there was a contradiction between the locals’ report and the state’s stance.
Illegal mining has not just denuded the picturesque hill, surrounded by mango and cashew plantations, but has also put thousands of lives at stake.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had issued a notice to the company in November 2006 saying mining activity there could endanger the Vyaghreshwar Dam located at an aerial distance of 2.5km from the site, said a local official on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
In September 2009, the tehsildar of Mandangad filed a report indicting the company for encroaching upon open land, and mining without permission. In March 2008, the director of mines safety, Goa region, visited the site and accused the company of a series of violations, including the use of heavy earth moving machinery without permission.
The Hindustan Times has copies of all these reports.
Local activists including Shrikar Paranjpe, Milind Nijsure, Anand Dandekar, in charge of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s environmental cell in Konkan, and a local farmer, Pradip Daripkar, have been protesting against the company. They have repeatedly complained to authorities, often resulting in stop-work notices from the MPCB. District mining officer Abhay Bhoge, said: “We had ordered them [the company] to stop transportation of bauxite in January 2010 but it’s the MPCB which has to tell them to stop mining.” He said he would instruct the tehsildar to visit the site and ensure that mining has stopped.