Beach Sand Mining – Misconceptions in India

Beach Sand Mining (BSM) is a process to extract rare earth minerals from open pits. There are misconceptions about BSM, that it affects environment and is a threat to biodiversity.  BSM normally consists of ilmenite, rutile, zircon, garnet, monazite, leucoxene and sillimanite. Ilmenite is the major rare earth element which is used large in the consumer products and high tech applications.

For instance; the companies who extract rare earth minerals from the field just scoop the top inch of the beach. If they go any deeper, they would end up mining silica. Silica is not a rare earth mineral and is of no use to the industry. These minerals are skimmed early in the morning, as by the evening the minerals are washed off by heavy waves. Hence, it is necessary to scoop these minerals in the morning, as the sea deposits fresh layers of rare earth minerals.

V. V. Mineral is one of the largest exporters of ilmenite and garnet in India. S Vaikundarajan is the founder of V. V. Mineral and was found by him in the late 1980s. Several allegations are made against these top notch Beach sand mining companies.

A special team led by IAS officer Gagan Deep Singh Bedi has submitted contents of a report concerning the illegal BSM in southern districts. A petition to make the content public was submitted by an advocate, it states that the public has the rights to know the details of the report.  The Madras High Court Bench has transferred the public interest petition to Principal Seat of High Court in Chennai, following the advocate’s petition.

After a number of allegations were made against these mining firms, a special investigation team was set up by the State Government to look into the matters. Before submitting the report a detailed probe was conducted by the investigating team. The government decided to extend the enquiry to other areas and has kept the report confidential. The MD and CEO of V. V. Mineral, S. Vaikundarajan said, “The investigation was completed and report submitted in November 2013. However, no evidence of illegal activity was found against VV Mineral.”

 

 

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VVM uses environment friendly process for sand mining

A practice to extract sand through open pit is known as sand mining. Usually, the sand is mined from the dredged ocean beds, river beds, beaches and inland dunes. Sand mining is done to extract minerals such as rutile, ilmenite and zircon, which hold elements like titanium and zirconium, which are industrially useful. The sand mining industry is misunderstood, because it has caused concerns in the past.

Sand mining is practiced in India by various industries. The beaches of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, yield these rare earth minerals through sand mining. They are abundant in seven elements i.e. garnet, ilmenite, leucoxene, monazite, rutile, sillimanite, and zircon. These elements or ores yield niobium, tantalum, titanium, thorium, and other elements, when processed. They are utilized by a wide range of industries i.e. such as electronics, energy, plastics, paints, construction, shipping, paper, and nuclear.

Based on their physical properties, these rare earth minerals are extracted using different techniques and methods. The raw material extracted is then sorted using magnetism, conductivity, and gravity to separate the six or seven minerals. High tension and magnetic separators pull out ilmenite, monazite, rutile, and garnet while zircon and sillimanite are separated by their specific gravity in spiral concentrators. Generally, chemicals are not used in the separation of these minerals.

India’s one of the largest sand mining firm is VV Mineral (VVM). VVM uses sun to dry the minerals rather than using diesel powered kilns. The water which is used during the separation process is recycled and treated. Few tailings that are generated are dumped into a small pond of recycled water where the sand bed acts as a natural filter. VV Mineral is India’s largest garnet and ilmenite exporter. They have won several awards and certifications for their environmentally friendly mining processes. Their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) involves employment of local youth, health coverage, education, and several other services to the area.

Mining Sector Now Has A Dedicated Online Portal

On 18th August, 2016, an online portal was launched by the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), for filing up of returns for Star Rating of the Mines. IBM is a sub-ordinate office of Ministry of Mines. The template of the returns will be filled by the lease holder of the mines or authorised representative. The basis of authorisation will be self-certification.

Mr Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (IC) in the Ministry of Mines, Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy, announced this information in reply to the questions asked to him in a Rajya Sabha session.

The Ministry of Mines issued a notification pertaining to Star Rating of Mines for implementation of Sustainable Development Framework (SDF) in the mining sector.

Based on previous year’s performance, the mining leaseholders are to file returns for Star Rating annually. As per sources, there is no separate deadline fixed by the Government for the mine operators to upload the details of the relevant permissions from Government, but the same would be required to be uploaded while filing the online return for Star Rating on the portal by the mine operators.

Vaikundarajan, the MD & CEO of V. V. Minerals, said in an interview, “It is great to see that the government is putting in efforts. With everything going digital, even the mining industry needs to catch up on the digital age.”

 

Mining sector catches up with digital age with a Web Portal

An online portal has been launched by the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), a sub-ordinate office of Ministry of Mines, which will allow the mining lease holder to file returns for Star Rating of the Mines on 18th August, 2016. The template can be filled by mining lease holder or his authorized representative on self-certification basis.

Based on previous year’s performance, the mining leaseholders are to file returns for Star Rating annually. As per sources, there is no separate deadline fixed by the Government for the mine operators to upload the details of the relevant permissions from Government, but the same would be required to be uploaded while filing the online return for Star Rating on the portal by the mine operators.

Shri Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (IC) in the Ministry of Mines, Power, Coal, and New Renewable Energy shared this information in the Rajya Sabha session recently.

The industry has welcomed this development with open arms. Vaikundarajan, the MD & CEO of V. V. Minerals, said in an interview, “It is great to see that the government is putting in efforts. With everything going digital, even the mining industry needs to catch up on the digital age.”

 

 

Job Rise In Mining Sector Is A Great News, Says Vaikundarajan

The mining sector of WA has seen a turnaround with the rise in the number of jobs following the plunge in commodity prices. With more than 25,000 jobs shed between August 2013 and June 2016, the industry is once again picking up and job ads are on the rise.

“One of the leading mining companies of WA has increased their advertising by 4% as compared to last year. Job ads in mining sectors nationally have gone up by 11%,” informs Vaikundarajan, founder of VV Minerals India.

Exploration and geoscience has performed well in the mining sector with an increase of 60%, followed by mine processing and drill and blast seeing a growth of 46% and 33% respectively. The growth is driven majorly in 3 areas – Gold, Iron Ore and Nickel.

“The overall growth has resulted in IPO companies taking to the market to raise cash for exploration,” explains Vaikundarajan.

The industry has seen an increase in the number of rigs mobilized and more companies are keen on increasing their greenfields exploration. The steady improvement is a leap forward for the mining sector.

Environmentally Sustainable Mining Practices Is The Need Of The Hour – Vaikundarajan

Neyveli Learning and Development Centre organized a seminar focusing on adoption of technology and practices for making mining environmentally sustainable. The seminar also focused on educating the masses on the important laws and regulations affecting the mining industry. The experts in mining sector present at the seminar engaged in a healthy debate on eco-friendly mining, environmental management, reclamation and afforestation.

“There is certainly a need for a balance between the growth of mining industry and minimising the mining effect on environment,” admits Vaikundarajan, founder of VV Minerals India. “Some areas of mining process such as open pit and surface mining do affect the environment. The industry needs to come together and curb the environmental hazards for a better future.”

While the growth of mining industry is vital to the country’s economy, there is a certain need to understand the challenges and address the sustainability and eco-friendly mining operations and solutions within a regulatory framework. The seminar was designed to plan a way forward for environmentally sustainable mining operations.

“New management strategies and technologies are already being developed and used by the mining industry. With time, these reforms will certainly bring about a change,” assures Vaikundarajan.

The seminar was attended by over 200 delegates and featured 66 technical papers in 5 different sessions on eco-friendly surface mining, green technology and environmental perspectives, hydro geology, ground water management, modelling and geospatial applications in mine environment.

 

 

Vaikundarajan appreciates Rai’s decision

B. Ramanath Rai, Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment, ruled out any involvement of members of political parties in illegal sand mining in Dakshina Kannada.

Mr. Rai boldly dismissed the allegations in a matter of fact way by saying, “I cannot accept bland statements that the sand mafia is active here. If there are any political party workers involved in illegal sand mining, provide specific details about the person. Action will certainly be taken against them. The party men who are engaged in sand mining are those who have been doing so for over several years now with authorised permits.”

Vaikundarajan, the Chairman and Managing Director of V. V. Minerals, said that he was surprised by Rai’s this step. Rai had, in one simple solution, conveyed the message to all the trouble-makers that unnecessary and baseless allegations will not be entertained by the state. V. V. Minerals is facing allegations of illegal sand mining since a while now. Vaikundarajan said that he is holding strong against all the cases and hopes that the other states will take Rai’s example and decide in good faith.

Mr. Rai also added that such issues are surfacing due to the unclear policies. He said, “We are close to coming out with a policy on sand extraction in non-CRZ areas, which will resolve the issue of illegal sand mining.”