National Award winning company VV Minerals has been in operation for over two decades under the leadership of its founder, S Vaikundarajan. The company is the largest producer and exporter of Garnet and Ilmenite in India. However, all these achievements and milestones have been overshadowed by allegations of illegal beach mining against the company.
Ashish Kumar, former district collector of Tuticorin, carried an unsuccessful raid on one of the warehouses of VV Minerals. Following this incident, Kumar was transferred to an undisclosed location. Vaikundarajan was immediately accused of his political influence to forward the transfer. However, it should be noted that Kumar’s previous assignment lasted only 45 days.
Thorium scam has been much talked about in the industry. The company is accused of amassing several wealth by illegally exporting Thorium. The company advocate cleared up the controversy by stating that the industry lack technology to separate Monazite from Ilmenite. The company has also appealed the government to permit setting up of a plant for separating Monazite and Thorium from Ilmenite.
The government has allowed a certain amount of Thorium content in the sand. VV Minerals assured that this amount has never been exceeded. “The company has operated within legal boundaries for over two decades. The allegation is a ploy by the competitors to hamper our reputation,” said 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.
With the on-going investigation in to the illegal sand beach mining scam, a lot of allegations have surfaced against VV Minerals India. The media coverage and lack of evidence continue to tarnish the reputation of a National Award winning company and its founder.
Recently, the High Court of Madras reserved its judgment in favour of the VV Mineral Mining and challenged an order of the Centre cancelling company’s licence. Little is known about this fact as the media has not covered it in print or electronic media. The reports concerning the original petition and that of latest developments are nowhere to be found across the internet. Most newspaper continues to carry bland headlines accusing the company of scam.
AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha had stated that Vaikundarajan was pressured by government to sell his shares. Cases were forged against him and VV Mineral was forced to shut down by the State Pollution Control Board and the Department of Mining and Geology.
VV Minerals is India’s largest manufacturer and exporter of garnet and ilmenite with a significant market share in Europe, Middle East, East Asia, Australia and USA. It is also the first private company to hold granted licence for mining and exporting of ilmenite from the Government of India. Despite several achievements in the export business, VVM faces a string of baseless accusations.
Following the allegations, the State Government has set up an investigating team to look into the matter. The National Green Tribune has ordered a ban on beach sand mining activities in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. VV Mineral Vaikundarajan has not shied away from a battle as he approached the High Court with a plea to squash the Central Government order.
The ban is cost an annual loss of around Rs 300 crore to the state exchequer causing a significant impact on India’s beach mining status in global market.
While the investigation is yet to reach its conclusion, VV Mineral Vaikundarajan has extended his full support to the committee and believes that justice will prevail.