India’s import list is long: crude, gold, electronics, coal and iron-ore, among many others. According to officials present at the fourth national conclave on mines and minerals being held in Indore, a new item has just been added on that stretched list. And that is sand or what is known as ‘baalu or reti or gitti’ in the Hindi heartland, the hotbed of illegal sand mining.
Officials told Moneycontrol a shipment of sand had arrived from Oman - a development that should worry the policymakers and judiciary alike.
There is no shortage of items on India’s import list that was worth $460 billion in 2017-18.
Speaking at the conclave, Minister of Mines Narendra Singh Tomar said the issue of sand mining occupied the agenda for discussion wherever he goes these days. Iron-ore and manganese are not on agenda but sand mining, he said. Indore is hosting officials from various states and companies to showcase the potential of mining in their respective territories.
“We have sought comments from states on the draft of the proposed sand mining policy,” he said.
As is the case with mining of several minerals in India, sand mining has also become a victim to mafia and their illegal ways that have brought severe damage to local ecology and wildlife. As a result, Supreme Court has come down heavily on sand mining, banning it in some states. The import of sand from Oman is a result of that.
Tomar said leases of as many as 102 blocks of various minerals would expire in 2020 and he had asked his ministry to expedite all the processes to ensure they find a new owner to operate those mines soon after the leases expire and the operations continue smoothly.
Of the 102 blocks, maximum are in Jharkhand – 21 of them, followed by Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. Madhya Pradesh has two blocks that will come up for auction in 2020, a state government official told Moneycontrol.
Tomar said of the 43 blocks of minerals auctioned since the current government came to power in May 2014, 11 would be operational by year-end. Tomar said the government would receive Rs 155,000 crore during the operation of the mines. Of this, Rs 102,000 crore would go to the beneficiary states, he said.