The Ministry of Steel has requested the Ministry of Coal to arrange sand mining leases for Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) in Jharkhand as sand’s absence is affecting the “coal productions as well as safety of workmen” in company’s underground mines, which are situated in Chasnalla and Jitpur.
According to a steel sector executive, sand is required to fill up the empty area in an underground mine so that the surface does not cave in. “Sand is mixed with water and then this mixture is flown down to the empty area of the underground mine. The water then comes up and the sand remains at the bottom. This way the mine is filled up and this process is called “backfilling” or “stowing”. This process is done to avoid the surface to cave in,” he added. Chasnalla and Jitpur mining areas come under Dhanbad district.
SAIL, which operates under steel ministry, has been requesting various departments of Jharkhand government and Central government for last three years to provide sand mining leases. In response to specific queries sent by The Indian Express, SAIL stated: “Required safety norms are being followed for safety of workers.” India’s worst mining disaster happened on December 27, 1975, in Chasnalla only when 375 people died at a coal mine due to an explosion and subsequent flooding.
In a letter dated August 28, 2018, the steel ministry told the coal ministry: “In absence of sand mining lease, coal productions as well as safety of workmen in underground mines are getting affected. SAIL vide letter dated December 12, 2015, requested District Mining Officer, Dhanbad for reservation of sand mining lease inn favour of SAIL for the leases pertaining to Dhungri Ghat (36.06 Hectares), Het Kandra Ghat (16.34 Hectares), Chasnalla Ghat (30.63 Hectares) and Tasra Ghat (51.60 Hectares) on the bank of river Damodar for sand stowing of underground mines of Chasnalla and Jitpur.”
On May 25, 2017, Jharkhand government forwarded the SAIL’s proposal of reservation of these four sand mining leases for approval of Ministry of Coal. On November 13, 2017, the coal ministry asked the Jharkhand government to furnish information regarding specific boundaries/coordinates of the area. SAIL submitted the boundary coordinate plan to Director of Mines and Geology in Jharkhand government on July 4, 2018. This plan was also submitted to District Mining Officer of Dhanbad district on July 24, 2018.