Hundreds of mines lay closed down in Kota, Rajasthan following NGT Order

Kota: Hundreds of minor minerals mines, which failed to obtain the NGT-mandated environment clearance (EC) in Kota region were forced to discontinue operations, leaving thousands of labourers without work.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), vide its order dated January 13, 2015 had directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to draft a policy on environmental clearance (EC) for mining leases in cluster for minor minerals, including building stones, gravel, ordinary clay, ordinary sand, among others.

Initially the NGT had set a time limit of six months for the mines to obtain EC and later extended it till January this year. Thereafter, seeking another extension on the time limit, the Rajasthan government had approached the NGT, which declined the request and made it clear for the mine owners to apply for EC and obtain it latest by May 31, 2016.

In Bundi district alone, more than 900 mines remained shut, while only 23 which obtained the EC continued to function, officials said. Orders to shut operations were issued to mine owners who have not yet obtained the EC, D P Goud, superintendent mining engineer (SME), Kota told media.

He added no further direction for resumption of operation at the mines has been received from the senior officials. The department had yesterday stopped issuance of departure slips (Ravanne) to those not having EC, Sunil Sharma, Mining Engineer, Bundi Mining Department, Division II, told media.

He added that only 23 mine owners have obtained EC from the committee headed by the district collector. Around 40,000 to 50,000 people in the mineral-rich areas of Dhabi, Budhpura, Lambakhoh in Bundi district were also left without work and wages.

NGT order has left thousands of labourers, mostly hailing from Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, without employment, said Suraj Mal Bansal, president, Bundi Sandstone Mine Owner Vikas Samiti, and demanded that the government take immediate steps for a solution to the "crisis" created by the NGT order.

The closure of mining operations in Bundi district has affected business of around Rs 10 corer per day causing loss of revenue to government as well as traders, Bansal claimed.

In Ramgangmandi area of Kota district, 47 out of 61 mines were closed down yesterday in the absence of EC, said Yashwant Damor, ME, Mining department. He said owners of 44 out of the 47 closed down mines have applied for EC but they have not been issued the same till May 31, while the three other mine owners never applied for EC.

Around 15,000 to 20,000 people are adversely affected by the closure of stone mines in Chechat and Ramgangmandi areas of Kota district, said Abdula Mukeem, general secretary of Chechat Lime Stone Mines Association and added over 200 stone-laden trucks are transported daily from the area.

According to sources, most of the mine owners applied for EC before March 31, 2016 but could not obtain clearance as "files kept moving to and fro between the offices at state and district levels".

These mine owners had earlier applied to MoEF and state environment department, Jaipur. Their applications were not sent to district level committee in time, they added.

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