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Locals to be allowed mining in 58 blocks of Jhelum as outsiders fail to get clearance

After being unsuccessful in getting Environmental Clearance (EC), the government is planning to cancel 58 e-auctioned minor mineral blocks of river Jhelum that were allocated to outside Jammu and Kashmir companies.

Now these blocks will be available for traditional mining by locals. According to the minutes (No: 986/MCC/DGM/GMM/20/1284-85 dated 15-06-2021) of the recently held meeting of the Geology and Mining Department in Srinagar, it was decided to revive the traditional, customary sand mining by identifying the rightful beneficiaries. “The proposal once finalised shall be forwarded to GOI for consideration”, read minutes of the meeting.

Due to the delay in completion of sand blocks which led to a huge gap in demand and supply, affecting the livelihood of thousands of people who were connected with sand extraction.

The rising cases of illegal mining, besides hampering the progress of important infrastructure development projects were noticed.

50% of the bid money will be refunded to the successful bidders of these blocks as the government is considering cancellation of the e-auction process. These blocks were auctioned last year, with the bulk of the blocks going to firms from outside J&K. 

“Other blocks for which EC has been denied shall also be examined for early decision on case to case basis,” the minutes read.

As per reports, to reduce the illegal lifting and transportation and loss to the government fund, loose material in the barred quarry belts of Athwajan and Pantha Chowk should be considered for disposal by issuing licences to the former quarry holders. But with a condition that the loose quarry material shall be made available for important National Projects/ Government works according to the rules. Mining would not be allowed. Proposals for getting due clearances will be examined according to reports regarding this matter.

The meeting was informed that so far 98 e-auctioned minor mineral blocks have been granted the EC, out of which 64 leases are operational. Commissioner/ Secretary Geology and Mining, Manoj Kumar stressed for more concerted efforts to clear the cases for EC and fixed the target of 120 ECs and 106 operational mines at the end of this month with special emphasis on Kashmir as only 14 mining leases of minor mineral blocks have been granted in the Valley so far.

The meeting also looked upon the Mine Surveillance System (MSS), a satellite-based monitoring system for minerals, that can help in avoiding illegal mining in J&K. “Besides the proposal for GPS tracking of vehicles involved in transportation of minerals shall also be prepared”, read the minutes.

The meeting resolved that unlawful mining would be observed at all times so that financial loss to the state can be avoided and that demarcation of all leased out blocks would be conducted and finished in a timely way to make sure that the mines could be operational as soon as feasible.

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