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Union Environment Ministry gives go-ahead to mining

With the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests granting powers to Himachal government to approve mining leases up to 25 hectares, the complete ban on river mining will finally be lifted, paving the way for easy availability of building material in the state.

The communication by the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment has come as a major breather for Himachal government as due to a blanket ban on mining, an acute shortage of sand and gravel had arisen in the state.

This had led to a spurt in illegal mining, especially in the border areas of the state in Kangra and Solan districts.

“The state can now grant environmental clearances for mining leases up to 25 hectares while no environmental clearance will henceforth be required for leases below five hectares,” confirmed Industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri.

He said 119 requests for being granted mining leases up to 25 hectares in Himachal had been pending with the Centre, which now can now be processed by the state.

He said leases below five hectares would not be allowed to operate. He added that the ban on sending sand and gravel outside Himachal will continue till the process does not stabilise.

At present, finished material like crushed stones can be sent outside the state but raw material like sand or gravel cannot be.

Following court directives imposing a ban on river-bed mining, acute shortage of construction material was being faced, both by individuals and government agencies implementing various development works under various schemes for house, road and other works. In fact, the blanket ban on river-bed mining had led to a spurt in illegal mining.

The Industries department, in its bid to check illegal mining, has also been able to collect Rs 84.59 crore as compounding fee for illegal mining by the 80 stone-crushers in the state as per the court directives, for the last five years. The highest number of 39 stone crushers are located in district Kangra, followed by 24 in Solan and six in Mandi.

The Tribune (28-12-2013)