The government has come up with a draft notification for a new sustainable sand and minor mineral mining policy. It specifies where mining should be allowed or prohibited based on sustainability guidelines and monitoring of resources using scientific tools.

“From January 1, 2016, the new law and guidelines on sustainable sand and minor mineral mining will be applicable. The new policy will check illegal mining and allow serious, legitimate players to remain in business,” said Parakash Javadekar, Minister of State for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, at a press conference on Thursday. Worried over indiscriminate sand-mining across the country affecting the ecological balance, the Supreme Court, in February 2012, had ruled that environment permission needed to be sought for all sand-mining activities.

“Unfortunately the UPA government did not follow up on it to make a policy. No new licences were given and the entire system collapsed. As a result, legitimate players went out of business, while illegal mining prospered,” Javadekar said.

The draft policy allows environment clearances for up to five hectare of mine lease area for sand and minor minerals to be done at the district level. States will give clearances for mine lease areas up to 50 hectares, while the Centre would give permissions for areas larger than 50 hectares.

The draft notification, which has been put up on the ‘e-gazette’ website, will be on display for the next 60 days for comments from the public, which would all be considered before the final policy is notified, the Minister said.

Use of tech A decision to allow or prohibit mining would be based on a district survey report, which would take the help of remote sensing technology and ground truthing to find out how much sand is deposited in river beds, the draft policy outlined.

Stringent monitoring of movement of mined-out material from source to destination using IT tools such as bar coding would be done, the minister added. The transit permit for movement of sand will have a number of security features such as unique barcode, fugitive ink background, invisible ink mark and watermark.