Thursday 18 Apr 2024

Regulating sand mining as a minor mineral in Goa

Adv Moses Pinto | MARCH 24, 2024, 12:17 AM IST

Adv Moses Pinto

According to the Op-ed entitled: Sand Mining in India – Grain of Despair: Failure of Regulatory Machinery published at the SCC Online Times blog on the 8th February, 2023— 

“Sand is considered to be an essential ingredient/material when it comes to building civilisations. As global urbanisation continues, the demand for sand for making concrete, building sites, filling roads, making bricks, making glass, sandpapers, etc. As the global population continues to rise and so does the expansion of cities, demand for sand is only expected to grow.”

“Sand mining refers to the process of extraction of sand, usually from an open pit. It is an activity in which sand is removed from the rivers, streams, and lakes. Beaches all over the world are being mined for sand for a variety of uses. Sand mining has tripled in the last two decades because of the increase in demand as reported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).” (Naveen Kumar, 2023)

Effects of Sand Mining:

- Indiscriminate and excessive mining of sand has recorded various ill-effects inasmuch as: 

- Excessive mining of sand affects the regular course of the river. 

- A change in the course of a river causes river erosion which further leads to floods during monsoon. 

- Serious effects on the nearby wildlife which is dependent on the sandy banks for their survival. 

- Intrusion with the sand on the riverbed causes disturbance in the water, which is injurious to sea animals resulting in hindrances/difficulties to the population which relies on fishing for their livelihoods. 

- Removing coastal barriers leads to the exposure of beachside areas to floods, cyclones, and tsunamis. 

- Depletion of sand in the riverbed resulting in the deepening of riverbeds and the widening of river mouths which increases the salinity of the water.

According to Press Information Bureau (PIB), Delhi on 12th December, 2022, in the press release titled: Sand Mining Framework - 

“Sand is a minor mineral, as defined under section 3 (e) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act).”

“Section 15 of the MMDR Act empowers state governments to make rules for regulating the grant of mineral concessions in respect of minor minerals and for purposes connected therewith.”

 “The regulation of grant of mineral concessions for minor minerals is, therefore, within the legislative and administrative domain of the state governments.”

“Section 23C of the MMDR Act, 1957 empowers state governments to frame rules to prevent illegal mining, transportation and storage of minerals and for purposes connected therewith.”

“Control of illegal mining is, therefore, under the legislative and administrative jurisdiction of state governments.”

Further, the press release by the PIB, Delhi had clarified that:

“The Ministry of Mines has prepared a ‘Sand Mining Framework’ in consultation with  Mining Departments of the States incorporating best practices amongst States with the objectives of sustainability, availability, affordability, and transparency in sand mining. The ‘Sand Mining Framework’ has been circulated to all the State Governments for necessary action. Moreover, the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has issued Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016, which, inter-alia, addresses the issues relating to the regulation of sand mining.”

Sand has been notified as a “minor mineral” under Section 3(e) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957. 

The term “ordinary sand” that is used in clause (e) of Section 3 of the MMDR Act, 1957 has been given a clear understanding through Rule 70 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 as follows: 

Sand shall not be treated as a minor mineral when used for any of the following purpose, namely: 

(i) Purposes of refractory and manufacture of ceramic; 

(ii) Metallurgical purposes; 

(iii) Optical purposes; 

(iv) Purposes of stowing in coal mines; 

(v) For manufacture of silvicrete cement; 

(vi) For manufacture of sodium silicate; and 

(vii) For manufacture of pottery and glass.

“Section 4 of the Act specifically states that mining without necessary permits is illegal. This includes sand mining also.” (Naveen Kumar, 2023). 

The National Green Tribunal, expressed its deep concern with regard to illegal sand mining in Anumolu Gandhi v. State of A.P. (2019), The Tribunal has held that: 

“…it is the duty of the Government to provide complete protection to the natural resources as a trustee of the public at large. All unregulated sand mining that is being conducted without following the prescribed procedure in the State of Andhra Pradesh should be prohibited.”

The Supreme Court in Bajri Lease Lol Holders Welfare Society v. State of Rajasthan (2019) held that: 

“...unabated illegal mining has resulted in the emergence of the sand mafia who conduct illegal mining in the manner of organised criminal activities and have been involved in brutal attacks against members of local communities, enforcement officials, reporters and social activists who dare object to unlawful sand excavation. Section 21(5) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 empowers the State Government to recover the price of the illegally mined mineral, in addition to recovery of rent, royalty or tax, that the penalty recommended by the Central Empowered Committee for illegal sand mining would be in addition to the penalty that can be imposed by the State Government in terms of Section 21(5) of the Act.”

The Supreme Court in the judgment given in Common Cause v. Union of India (2017) as:

“mining operations undertaken by any person in any area without holding a mining lease and any other mining operation conducted in violation of the terms of the mining scheme, the mining plan, and the mining lease as well as the statutes such as the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972”

In conclusion, the opinion expressed by Naveen Kumar (2023) deserves mention:

“Even after several suggestions by the courts as well as tribunal, the States have not come up with an effective mechanism to keep a check on illegal sand mining. On the contrary, some of the State Governments have found out ways to mould the legal mandates under the influence of pressure groups.”

The writer is a Doctoral Researcher working under the Alliance of European Universities and has presented his research works at various Academic Conferences

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