With illegal lifting and theft of sand proving to be a continuous challenge, the Odisha government is planning to start a separate directorate to regulate mining of minor minerals. Officials in the state revenue and disaster management department said the directorate would put in place a robust monitoring mechanism using technology to prevent illegal lifting and theft of minor minerals. “Apart from monitoring the implementation of environment protection laws during the mining of such minerals, the directorate would identify potential minor mineral sources so that it can augment collection of mining revenue. The directorate would also ensure adequate and uninterrupted supply of minor minerals for all development projects and construction of buildings,” a senior official of the department said.Minor minerals like sand, ballasts, chips, bajri, gravel of ordinary stones, river shingles, pebbles and rock fines generated from stone crushers are major sources of revenue and come under the revenue and disaster management department. But with little survey about the existence of such sources, the mining mafia were having a field day.Last month, the reporter of a leading Odia daily in coastal Balasore district was grievously injured after sand mining mafia attacked him for writing against illegal mining. Earlier this month, people in Jaleswar area of Balasore district had detained around 100 tractors engaged in sand mining. Last year, the minor mineral mafia allegedly ran over a transport officer while several revenue department officials have been attacked by from the minor mineral mafia. In June last year, the sand mafia from West Bengal armed with iron rods, guns and petrol bombs scared away Odisha revenue department officials.According to officials, to put in place a satellite image-based surveillance system for monitoring the quarrying operation of minor minerals, the Odisha State Remote Sensing Application Centre has done Differential Geographic Positioning System (DGPS) survey work of 240 sources in Jajpur, Khurda, Cuttack, Nuapada and Ganjam districts.To regulate and monitor the mining activities of minor minerals, a 24x7 IT application called integrated mines and minor minerals management system (i4MS) on the lines of i3MS for major minerals will be implemented by the revenue and disaster management department.Last year, the government had framed Odisha Minor Mineral Concession (Amendment) Rules, 2018 for regulating the mining activity of minor minerals. As per the rules, mining operation would be done within the mining area as per mining plans. Once a sand block is identified, the tehsildar will put it up for auction after receiving environmental clearance. While preparing a mining plan, the distance of mining area from habitations, heritage sites, monuments, public infrastructure facilities will be taken into consideration.The government policy also prohibited sand mining at night (from 7 pm to 6 am), unless such operations are considered necessary for specific reasons. Meanwhile, the state government has notified rules for Odisha Specified Minor Minerals for auction of specified minor minerals like laterite stones, marble, granite, quartz, sandstone and Gypsum come under the purview of steel and mines department. The steel and mines department would hold electronic auction of these minor minerals after estimating the quantities of all minerals discovered in that area.