Chennai, Aug 23 IANS | 2 years ago

The protest against the illegal mining of precious beach sand minerals gained further strength with the Tuticorin Roman Catholic Bishop Yvon Ambroise urging the government to ban mining and confiscate the ill-gotten wealth of the miners.

"The indiscriminate mining of beach sand minerals has resulted in several health complications for the fishermen in Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts. The ecological damage is also immense which in turn affects the fishermen's health," Ambroise told IANS over phone from Tuticorin.

He said the owners of the illegal mining companies as also the government officials who assisted them by turning a blind eye to the mining should be arrested.

According to him, the mining licence issued to the companies should be cancelled forthwith and the sand minerals stocked in their stockyards and their personal properties acquired through this illegal business should be confiscated.

Ambroise urged the government to set up a panel to study the issue of illegal mining in Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts.

In response to a query, he said: "The Church has been against illegal beach sand mining for the past 30 years. While the Church is extending its support to the fishing community, it is for the people to decide on the future course of action."

The Tamil Nadu government Aug 9 ordered stopping of beach sand minerals mining in Tuticorin district by six lessees and constituted a multi-departmental committee to inspect and verify whether any illicit mining activity was being carried out.

The government's decision comes after Tuticorin district collector Ashish Kumar sent a report to the government Aug 6 stating that inspections of some of the leased areas for mining and minerals - garnet, ilmenite and rutile - in the district were undertaken and instances of large scale illicit beach sand mining had been detected.

The report also recommended detailed field inspections by special teams comprising officials from the departments of revenue, police, environment and forests, geology and mining.

Kumar was immediately transferred and posted as deputy secretary, social welfare and nutritious meals department. Officials of Tuticorin district administration inspected sand quarries in Vaippar and Vembar villages in the district Aug 6 on complaints that a mining company with permission to mine in four hectares has been mining in 30 hectares.

"On the basis of complaints from the fishing community, we inspected the mining areas in Vaippar village. The lessee has been given permission to mine in four hectares. We found the mining was being done in 30 hectares," Kumar told IANS Aug 9.

"Around 230,000 tonnes of beach sand minerals have been quarried in Vaippar village without permission from the government. We have sent the report to the government and action will be taken," he said.

On Aug 14 people from three villages - Idinthakarai, Koottapulli and Kuthenkazhi - in Tirunelveli district submitted a petition to the state government demanding action against private miners.

According to the petition, mining companies draw seawater without permission through pipes to process beach sand minerals and let out effluents, turning the sea water red.

The resultant pollution has affected people's health, marine life and the livelihood of fishermen, the villagers complained.

According to Ambroise, the views of the fishing community and that of the Fisheries Department should also be obtained about the impact of mining.

(Posted on 23-08-2013)