Drones to help Tamil Nadu government curb illicit mining of minerals through survey and monitoring of around 1,700 quarries. Illicit mining is a headache for the State government, which is losing revenue as nearly 60 per cent of the excavated minerals getting ‘leaked.’ The government gets revenue only for the remaining 40 per cent.

“It is a huge loss for the government. Manually, it could not be controlled. Drones will be the only way to arrest the illicit mining,” said a senior official.

Last year drones were utilised in Theni District for to monitor the mines to prevent extraction of the mineral in excess of the permitted amount in the mine and quarry areas. For this, an MoU was executed with the Aero Space Research Center, MIT Campus, Anna University.

Further, the State government wants to make a systematic use of Drones to survey all the 1,700 quarries. At the beginning of the year a drone survey will be done, and this will be repeated after 12 months, and in between the period how much mineral was excavated will be found out. Through this, the exact quantum of minerals mined can be computed and compared with seigniorage fee collected and transport permits will be issued. Any shortfall in seigniorage fee can be collected from the lessee before issuing transport permits for the succeeding year, said sources.

The Demand for Grants for the Industries Department tabled in the Assembly on Tuesday said that the drone survey project will be implemented at an estimated cost of ₹25 crore per year.

The 2020-21 Policy Note on Industries Department (Mines and Minerals) said that to keep a vigil on excess mining in the leased-out areas and mining of minerals outside the leased boundaries, Drones are deployed and an amount of ₹50 lakh during last fiscal.

The Department has taken effective measures to increase the mineral revenue for the State Exchequer. In 2020-21, the revenue realised was ₹983.07 crore as against ₹1,302 crore in the previous year. The drop was due to Covid-19 pandemic, which affected the mineral production.

During the year 2020-21, a total of 12,390 vehicles were seized and a sum of ₹11.73 crore was collected as penalty to curtail illicit mining. Besides, 10,680 criminal cases / First Information Reports were registered and 22 cases booked under the Goondas Act.

Government has already issued various orders and directions for curtailing illicit mining and quarrying to arrest the leakage of mineral revenue. For effective enforcement, the Government has decided to fix a target for the District Collectors and other officers for surprise inspection of quarries and mines for taking stringent action against the offenders, the Policy Note said.