In a bid to curb illegal mining activities, the Union Minister of State for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines has launched the Mining Surveillance System in New Delhi.
“The technology is developed by Ministry of Mines in coordination with Indian Bureau of Mines and Bhaskaracharya Institute of Space Applications and Geo-informatics (BISAG), Gandhinagar and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY),” informs Vaikundarajan, founder of VV Minerals India, sand beach mining company.
Under the Digital India Programme, MSS is the first surveillance system in India to be developed using space technology. Vaikundarajan explains, “Currently, the entire system relies heavily on local complaints and unreliable information to track illegal activity. This new system uses remote sensing to check a region of 500 meters around the mining boundary and searches for any unusual activity. When an unusual activity is found, a trigger is sent to the district level mining officials for field verification. Further check is carried out and reported using a mobile app.”
Going one step further, this app will also be made available to citizens. “The collective effort of government and citizens will surely keep illegal mining at bay,” says Vaikundarajan.
Several other features such as – status of mapping of mining leases, reasons for triggers, penalty levied etc. – are embedded to help the officials make better decisions. “Currently there are 1710 working mines and 2133 non-working mines in India. While most of the working mines have been digitized, the government plans to complete the same for pending mines in 3 months,” informs Vaikundarajan.
A pilot of 296 triggers hosted on the National Centre of Geo-Informatics will be launched across Haryana, Telangana and Chattisgarh.
The undertaking of commercial mining and sale of dry fuel is on the way as the government allots several coal mines to state-government companies.
“The Baitarni West coal mine in Odhisha, Dahegaon/Makardhokra–IV mine in Maharashtra, Maharashtra State Mining Corp Ltd and Gourangdih ABC block in West Bengal, Patal East in Jharkhand, Penagaddppa mine in Telangana are some of the mines assigned to the companies,” informs Vaikundarjan, founder of VV Minerals India, one of the leading sand beach mining companies in the country.
Furthermore, eight coal mines are earmarked for allotment of PSU’s of non-host states for sale of coal. “The allotment agreement for two coal mines, Madanpur South mine in Chhattisgarh and Suliyari mine in Madhya Pradesh, is already underway,” adds Vaikundarajan.
The Centre has identified 16 blocks for allotment to state PSUs as a means to open up the coal sector for commercial mining. These mines are – 5 in Madhya Pradesh, 3 in Telangana, 2 each in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra and 1 each in Odhisha and West Bengal.
“The government intends to double the coal production to 1.5 billion tonnes by 2020. With that objective, this move seems to be the right way to go for both the mining companies as well as india’s mining industry,”concludes Vaikundarajan.
VV Minerals is the highest producer of Garnet and Ilmenite today. It has been awarded several national awards for its contribution to the export business.
Lately, VV Minerals reputation has suffered due to the illegal beach mining scam. Being the largest mining company in India, fingers are naturally pointed at VV Mineral. The company has taken legal advice against these allegations. While the investigation committee has been looking into the matter, no evidence has been submitted against the company.
Ashish Kumar, District Collector of Tuticorin was one of the first people to raise his concerns against the company. A raid on one of the company’s warehouse yielded no results. Following this, the distric collector was given the marching orders. However, VV Mineral Vaikundarajan was immediately blamed to have used his political influence in Kumar’s transfer.
VV Minerals’ spokesperson, speaking to NDTV, denied these allegations and claimed that the “charges made by the former District Collector are baseless, motivated and vague.”
VV Minerals has enjoyed 100% monopoly in mining activities and has a huge share in export of Garnet. Former IAS officer V Sundaram accused the company of looting several crore rupees in a letter written to the state. VV Mineral Vaikundarajan was quick to dismiss the allegation as a conspiracy by business rivals.
“Sundaram is passing this as a cruel joke. He is on the payroll of our business rival. Our hands are clean. We will soon be cleared of all allegations,” Ravindram Duraiswami, advocate for VV Mineral told NDTV.
Founded by S Vaikundarajan in late 1980s, VV Minerals is one of the largest exporters of beach minerals in India today. Ramesh Kumar Raja of Governance Today interviewed VV Mineral VV Mineral Vaikundarajan on India’s current position and its improvement in the world heavy minerals market.
Ramesh Kumar Raja: What is the size of heavy minerals market in India?
VV Mineral Vaikundarajan: India has about 35% of world deposits but contributes a meagre 4% of global production. The total beach sand resources are estimated at 942.58 million tonnes comprising of Ilmenite, Zircon, Rutile, Garnet, Silimanite and Leucoxene.
For the local of Periyasamypuram in Tuticorin district, outrage has become a common way of living. Ever since the rumours of illegal sand beach mining, the locals have started taking the law in their own hands. Recently, some of the locals held hostage a sand mining truck of VV Mineral and battered the driver before letting him go. The police inspector of Surangudi failed to control the situation.
VV Minerals India is one of the largest sand mining companies in India. Naturally, to find itself in the midst of this controversy should not come as a surprise to anyone. However, there is no evidence to prove an illegal action on behalf of the company. VV Minerals, stated that the locals are being fed wrong information to turn them against the company.
The company is accused of illegally amassing INR 1 Lakh Crore through beach sand mining. However, it should be noted that it is practically impossible for one company to pull off a scam of such extent. Having been in existence for over two decades, these allegations surfacing now make no sense.
The company authorities also mentioned that VV Mineral Mining is legally authorised to manufacture and export Garnet with 1% Monazite content. This is due to the lack in technology for the separation of Monazite. Despite being confirmed by official bodies, the company continues to receive allegations of illegal exports.
VV Mineral, Vaikundarajan assured that in the last two decades, the company has never gone beyond the 1% threshold for monazite and has always acted within legal boundaries.
S Vaikundarajan founded VV Minerals India in the late 1980s. The company has grown over the two decades to become the biggest player in beach sand mining industry in India. It has won several national awards for its contribution to the export business. Today VV Minerals India is the largest producer and exporter of garnet and ilmenite in the country. The company is known to export minerals to over 20 countries.
Much like any other industry, the mining industry too faces its set of challenges. One of those challenges in the lack of technology to separate thorium from monazite. VV Minerals has openly expressed concerns over this challenge and is confirmed by the government body of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
Despite this confirmation, former principal scientist at Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in Kochi raised his concerns, “Indian Rare Earth Ltd (IREL), Manavalakurichi, uses the sand from the same area and produces thorium, so what happens to the monazite in the VV mines? Does the company follow the procedure recommended by the AERB?”
In the wake of recent allegations of beach sand mining, VV Minerals, the largest player in India, has become an obvious victim. Without any evidence, accusations are being hurled at the company, taking apart its reputation piece by piece.
This scam has forced the state government to setup an investigating team and suspend all mining activities till a conclusion is reached. Private companies in mining industry will have to face a huge loss due to the ban.
VV Mineral Vaikundarajan came out in support of the investigation team and stated that the company had done no wrong. “VV Minerals has operated within legal boundaries for over 2 decades. We have established a mineral separation plant and approached the AERB for a license, which is awaited. The allegation by IREL officials is a setup to maim the company’s reputation. No authority is ready to take action based on our complaint. Hence we approached the High Court,” said VV Mineal Vaikundarajan. He further stated that IREL has been illegally mining on VV Mineral’s land and no action has been taken against the company.
VV Minerals has filed two writ petitions that are pending with the Madras High Court following the temporary ban on sand mining activities.
An FIR has been lodged against entities alleged to be involved in illegal beach mining by an organization called Meenavar Viduthalai Iyakkam. The organization submitted a petition in the District Police Office in Tuticorin district seeking immediate action to stop illegal activities.
Recently, there have been illegal sand mining allegations against VV Minerals India, the largest beach sand mining company in the country. District collector Ashish Kumar had earlier carried out a raid at a company’s warehouse but found nothing. It was later revealed that the district collector may have been working with the competitors of VV Minerals India. Following this incident, Ashish Kumar was transferred to another location.