Two weeks after it removed rules restricting quarrying and mining in the eco-sensitive zones around ‘reserve forests’, the Tamil Nadu government on Friday said it would impose a “condition”, while granting licences, that such activities should not be undertaken within 60 metres from the boundaries of reserve forests.
“In pursuant of the amendment dated December 14, 2022, while granting quarry/mining licence in patta and government poromboke land, licences would continue to be granted with a condition that quarrying/mining should not be undertaken within a 60-metre radial distance from the boundaries of reserve forests. The existing quarries could continue to function,” Minister for Mines and Minerals Duraimurugan said.
In a statement, he said, “As per the amendment [to the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1959], there are chances that stone-crushing machines could function on patta land located beyond the 60-metre radial distance from the boundaries of reserve forests.” The restrictions around the reserve forests that had prevailed since 1959 until an amendment dated November 3, 2011, would continue, he said.
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In August 2021, the Minister announced that archeological sites/monuments, ancient inscriptions and Jain beds would be protected from quarrying and a new clause (e) was included in sub-rule (1-A) of rule 36 of the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1959. Since the fresh clause prohibited quarrying or mining within the 1-km radial distance from the boundaries of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves, elephant corridors and also reserve forests, there were representations objecting to restrictions around the reserve forests.
The Minister had in April 2022 announced that an amendment would be made in the said rule, contending that there were “practical difficulties” stemming from the restrictions around the reserve forests and that more than 500 quarries and mines were affected, including 19 quarries of M/s. TAMIN, and that the government incurred a revenue loss to a greater extent.
Through a government order of the Industries, Investment Promotion and Commerce Department, dated December 14, 2022, the government ordered the deletion of the term ‘reserve forests’ from the rule and it was also notified in the State government gazette. About 10 days later, through a press release issued on December 24, the government contended that the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on February 9, 2011, did not specify restrictions around reserve forests and that they should not be construed as protected forests, which meant sanctuaries and national parks.
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