With the state government giving its go-ahead to mining on 63 sites of less than five hectares and indicating the opening of more quarries for the extraction of minor minerals, both crusher owners and local residents desirous of constructing houses are feeling relieved.
They are expecting a fall in the prices of building materials like sand and tinker, which had earlier gone beyond the reach of the common man.
Recently, of the 209 notified sites in category C (less than 5 hectares) in the state, the mining wing of the industries department has given clearance for 63 sites as per the plans suggested by the mining contractors.
Sources said that after the government nod, 100 'khuds' have been opened for mining operations. Crusher owners and contractors expect another 120 'khuds' to become operational soon, which might help in bringing down the cost of building materials.
"It was not the price of gravel but high fares that compelled us to increase the price of building materials. Truck owners were demanding high fares, which increased the price of tinker when it had to be delivered at distant places," claimed Vijay Passi, the president of crushers owners association of Pathankot.
He maintained that since they were transporting raw materials from J&K and Himachal, the cost of gravel and sand increased manifold. "Earlier, we were doing limited business. But now, as the material will be available in Punjab, we are eying good business and also expect a fall in price of minor minerals," Passi added.
When contacted, Kuldeep Singh Makkar, president of mining contractors association, too claimed that prices of building materials would come down by 20-25%. He said that though chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had been asking them since long to help control prices of sand and gravel but it could not be done since the building material was transported from J&K and Himachal.
Mining wing general manager Dharam Pal Bhagat said that environment management cell would ensure that mining was done as per the rules. He said that 14 of the 19 quarries in Pathankot and surrounding areas have got clearance for mining while five quarries under the wildlife department's purview were expected to get no-objection certificates soon.
A local resident Chander Mohan Arora said that he had stopped the construction of his house due to high prices of sand and gravel but now expected to complete the building since he was expecting a fall in prices as well as easy availability of sand and tinker.