Mining industry plays a pivotal role in development of the State. It is not only important for strengthening economy of the State, but also provides gainful employment to the people. Progress and prosperity of the State largely depends on extraction and management of its natural resources. Demand of sand, grit, stone etc. for various developmental works and other domestic requirement is persistently rising. Heavy pressure on natural resources, makes it imperative that these natural resources are scientifically and judiciously harnessed. In addition, it also calls for keeping a check on illegal and unscrupulous mining.
The State Government has imposed complete ban on mining without seeking environmental clearance in accordance with the orders of National Green Tribunal. The Government has also ensured that pace of development in the State does not hamper for want of minerals, therefore scientific mining is being encouraged.
Himachal Pradesh Mineral Policy-2013 has been notified in the State on 24th August, 2013, for ensuring scientific mining. Himachal Pradesh River/Stream Bed Mineral Policy Guidelines-2004 has been incorporated in this Policy to make it more realistic and pragmatic. The main object of this Policy is to preserve precious mineral wealth of the State, besides checking illegal mining. Provision of issuing letter of intent has been made for early approval of environmental related approvals so that mining activities are carried out smoothly.
Keeping in view the ever increasing demand of minerals in rural as well as urban areas and to curb illegal mining, the State Government has allowed use of mineral waste extracted from various developmental works, such as construction of roads, tunnels and power projects etc. by stone crusher units. Usually it has been observed that transportation of illegal mining is carried out at night. Therefore, the Government has imposed ban on transportation of minerals in border areas from 8 PM to 6 AM in the morning.
The State Government for the first time has constituted a State Mineral Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Industries Minister. This Committee would ensure planned and scientific mining and gives its suggestions to the State Government for better management of mining areas. The Government has also taken up the matter regarding hardships being faced by the State due to unnecessary delay in seeking environmental clearances with the Union Ministry for Environmental and Forestry. Due to the efforts of the State Government, the Union Government has constituted a State Level Environment Approval Committee in the State. The Committee has started giving environment related clearances to the applicants.
In order to curb illegal mining the State Government has notified Himachal Pradesh Minor Minerals (Concession) and Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2015 on 13th March, this year. Provision of stringent punishment has been made for those involved in illegal mining. Provision of imprisonment upto two years or fine upto Rs 25,000 or both has been made for those involved in illegal mining of minerals, their transportation and holding. In addition, provision has been made to increase punishment as per the amount of illegal mining detected. Minimum compounding fee of Rs 10,000 would be charged from defaulter when the illegal mining done is upto 25 MT and compounding free of Rs 400 per tonne would be charged, over and above Rs 10,000 when the illegal mining exceeds 25 MT.
As per the Himachal Pradesh Minor Minerals (Concession) and Minerals (Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2015 no lease would be provided in respect of land within a distance of two kilometres from the immediate outer limits of Municipal Corporation/Municipal Committee, one kilometre from the immediate outer limits of Nagar Panchayat. In addition, no mining lease would be granted upto 100 metres from the edge of National Highway/Express way, 25 metres from the edge of State Highway and 10 metres from the edge of other roads. Apart from it no mining lease would be granted upto 200 meter above and below water supply/irrigation schemes and 200 meter above bridges and 200 to 500 meter below any bridge.
These efforts of the State Government have borne fruits. Illegal mining has been curtailed and scientific mining is being encouraged. This has ensured easy availability of construction material for developmental works as well as for the requirement of common man and has also ensured environment conservation.