In order to plug the rising illegal-mining cases, the Gujarat government plans to create digital maps for all the 7000-odd mines located in the state, using the Geographical Information System (GIS). It also proposes to introduce a vehicle-tracking and management system (VTMS), create a command and control centre at Gandhinagar and tighten the provisions Gujarat Mineral (Prevention of Illegal Mining and Transportation and Storage) Rules, 2005, by doubling existing penalties and enrolling end-users including large real-estate developers and corporate houses.
“We will map all the existing 7719 leases (major and minor minerals) using high end Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) and plot the same on a seamless digital base map of Gujarat. The project will also include mapping of all historic exploration data over the same digital base map and maintain the same for all ongoing activities,” said Roopwant Singh, the head of Commissionerate of Geology and Mining, the Government of Gujarat, told The Indian Express.
The GIS-based maps will empower department officials to not only visualise the assets in a geospatial environment, but will also help in effectively identify mineral bearing areas, demarcate accurate lease areas to be auctioned, the impact of mining in nearby areas and identify illegal mining areas. There are over 7719 existing mining leases that cover a total area of 1,96,024 square kilometers in Gujarat.
Earlier this month, The Indian Express had reported a 53 percent spike in the number of illegal mining cases in Gujarat during the last four years between 2013-17. The other measures taken by the Gujarat government to keep a tab on illegal mining include mapping all the 4763 stockiest and also the ongoing exploration projects using satellite technology.
These GIS maps will be linked with GPS-based Vehicle Tracking and Monitoring System (VTMS) which will make it mandatory for estimated 18000 vehicles transporting minerals to be registered. A command and control centre will also be created in Gandhinagar which will keep an eye on mining and transportation activities, which will include the seven integrated IT-enabled check-posts that have been set up on routes that have the maximum traffic of vehicles carrying minerals.
“We have also changed some of the rules which includes making it mandatory for end-users especially those in construction business to get registered on-line. Others like Mine Developer and Operator (MDOs), mechanised machineries and carriers to be registered. The penalties have also been doubled. For instance, any transport of mineral without lawful authority will attract a compounding payment of Rs 5000 per tonne. The existing penalty is Rs 2500,” Singh added.
Similarly, if a vehicle illegally transporting minerals is seized, then the offender has to pay 10 times the market value of the mineral seized and market value of the property or vehicle. “The new rules have been approved by the state government and will take effect as soon as a formal notification is issued,” the official added.