A series of reports in the Hindustan Times on illegal mining of bauxite in Ratnagiri, has alarmed the state government, which has ordered a review of all mines operating in the ecologically rich but fragile districts of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri.
Admitting to a lack of coordination between authorities responsible for regulating mining activity, the state has now decided that the environment and mining departments and the Indian Bureau of Mines will work together.
Environment secretary, Valsa Nair Singh, said, “We will be jointly reviewing all the 54 operational mines in the two districts and chalking out a report based on our findings. This exercise will start by the end of this month.” Nair Singh said this review will look into all aspects of the mines’ operations, including violations, if any.
The Hindustan Times has been reporting how Mumbai-based firm, Ashapura Minechem Limited, has been illegally mining 10 times more bauxite ore than it was allowed to at Sakhari Velas village in Ratnagiri.
The HT had also reported how the mine continues to operate and extract the precious mineral although its consent to mine expired in November 2009. It also paid the state less royalty than it was supposed to. Despite repeated requests, Ashapura Minechem did not respond to phone calls, text messages or emails.
The state government has now sent officials from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to the mine at Sakhari Velas to review the illegal operations at the site and submit a report in two days.
The HT has documents showing that the MPCB had issued several notices to Ashapura between 2005 and 2009, for violations, which included mining in excess of permissible limits and using heavy machinery without obtaining permissions. Despite these notices, no action was taken against the company.
“The MPCB’s role was to issue notices, but the mines department and the local collector should have taken penal action against the company for not paying heed to the notices,” a senior environment ministry official said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Nair Singh said a mechanism has been evolved to ensure better coordination between government bodies dealing with mining. “This will ensure that every agency involved knows the steps that the others have taken against any of the mines.”