The Modi government is determined to get rid of the menace of illegal mining of mineral resources in India, a major governance issue that it inherited from the previous Congress led UPA regime.
After introducing stringent penalties in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2015, vetted by the Parliament on March 20, 2016, the government has finally put in place a fool proof satellite based monitoring system called the Mining Surveillance System (MSS) that will help the nation get rid of illegal mining.
Launching the MSS system on Saturday, Union coal and mines minister, Piyush Goyal, who also holds the charge power and renewable energy ministries said this new system will trigger an alarm whenever there is an instance of illegal mining outside permitted areas.
Been developed under the Digital India Programme, MSS is one of the first such surveillance systems developed in the world using space technology. The system uses satellite-based remote sensing technology in conjunction with digitised maps of licensed mining areas and global positioning to track operations.
The system keeps an eye on areas 500 meters around the existing mining lease boundary to search for any unusual activity which is likely to be illegal mining. Any discrepancy if found is flagged-off as a trigger.
In contrast, the current system of monitoring of illegal mining activity is based on local complaints and unconfirmed information. There is no robust mechanism to monitor the action taken on such complaints.
Mining rich state, Karnataka, which saw large instances of illegal mining in the past, stands to gain tremendously from this technology, Goyal said, adding that the MSS will help in curbing illegal mining activity through automatic remote sensing detection technology.
Ministry of Mines, through Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), has developed the MSS, in coordination with Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics (BISAG), Gandhinagar and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), to use space technology for curbing illegal mining activity in the country.
A user-friendly mobile app has also been created which can be used by these officials to submit compliance reports of their inspections. The mobile app also aims to establish a participative monitoring system where the citizens also can use this app and report unusual mining activity.
An executive dashboard has also been designed under MSS to work as a decision support system.
Using this dashboard, officials can track the current status of mapping of the mining leases, reasons for triggers, the status of inspections related to triggers generated, the penalty levied etc. for all major mineral mining leases across the country.
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) October 15, 2016
There are in total 3843 mining leases of major minerals in India. Out of which, there are 1710 working mines and 2133 non-working mines. Most of the working mines have been digitized. Efforts for completing the digitization of non-working mines are being made through the State Governments, which would be completed in 3 months’ time.
In the initial phase, a total of 296 triggers have been generated in the MSS software across the States which covers a total area of 3994.87 hectares under the system. State-wise data for successful triggers can be summarized as Madhya Pradesh (46), Goa (42), Karnataka (35), Gujarat (32), Andhra Pradesh & Tamil Nadu (29 each), Rajasthan (23), Odisha(20), Himachal Pradesh (11), Maharashtra (8), Meghalaya (7), Chhattisgarh & Telangana (6 each) and Jharkhand (2).
The process is underway to launch a similar system for minor minerals in coalition with the State Governments. The states of Haryana, Telangana and Chattisgarh have been selected for a pilot launch.
According to government data, 48,467 cases of illegal mining of major and minor minerals were recorded in the April-September period of 2015-16 fiscal. This is against 97,149 in 2014-15, 88,689 in 2013-14 and 98,597 in 2012-13.
As per the government’s action taken report, 14,458 FIRs have been filed, 43,091 cases lodged in various courts, 1.81 lakh vehicles seized and about Rs 1,170 crore realised by states during 2012-13 and the April-September period of 2015-16.