Illegal mining

Recent Events:
  • The Uttarakhand High Court has ordered a complete ban on all mining activities in the state for four months. The HC bench ordered the state government to constitute a high-powered committee to look into various aspects of mining activities and find out whether mining activity should be permitted in the state at all.
  • The Supreme Court has laid down a benchmark for action against illegal mining
Supreme Court ruling
  • Lease-holders should pay compensation to the extent of 100% of the price of the quantum of minerals they had illegally extracted.
  • It has also set a significant benchmark for stringent action against those who indulge in mining without environmental or forest clearance
Current provisions
  • Central Empowered Committee had recommended compensation to the extent of 30% of the value of the iron ore and manganese ore illegally mined in Odisha.
  • Court’s reasoning is that the defaulter or violator should bear the consequences of the illegality, and therefore cannot be allowed the benefit of “pocketing 70% of the illegally mined ore”.
Excess extraction in leased area
  • Court has firmly ruled that any excess extraction within the leased area would also amount to unlawful mining.
  • It has clarified that every renewal of a mining lease would require such clearance, even if there is no expansion, modernisation or increase in the pollution load.
  • The apex court has been passing a series of orders on illegal mining activity, notably in Goa and Karnataka.
Main concerns of the court
  • It has often voiced concern over the extent to which mining laws are being flouted and how illegal mining is depleting the country’s natural resources.
  • It has asked the Centre to revisit its National Mineral Policy, 2008, which “seems to be only on paper and is not being enforced, perhaps due to the involvement of very powerful vested interests or a failure of nerve.
  • Country is already paying a heavy price for its failure to regulate mining operations in an effective manner.
  • It has become a source for corruption, excessive exploitation of natural resources and a scourge in the lives of forest dwellers and tribals.
  • Follow the principles of intergenerational equity, the responsibility of every generation to conserve resources with subsequent generations in mind while exploiting nature
Steps Taken by government:
The government has launched the Mining Surveillance System (MSS). It uses space technology for curbing illegal mining activity in the country.
What is it?
MSS is a satellite-based monitoring system which aims to establish a regime of responsive mineral administration, through public participation, by curbing instances of illegal mining activity through automatic remote sensing detection technology.

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