Hasty rollback

Kerala government stays sand mining permission

Published: Sunday 31 October 2004

the Kerala government has imposed a stay on the order issued by its industries department, which permitted the Aluva-based Kerala Rare Earths and Minerals Limited (kreml) to mine mineral sand from the coastal areas of Alappuzha district. With this step, it has temporarily quelled the storm raised by opponents of the order who feared that kreml's project would have drastic environmental impacts.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced the decision after a cabinet meeting on September 22, 2004. He said the reason behind the move was not that the industries department had erred in issuing the order but that the government had not been able to convince every one that it had done the right thing. Following the Union government's decision to open up mining of mineral sands to the private sector, the Kerala government had insisted that it would grant mining licenses only to joint sector companies in which government held 26 per cent equity. Private companies had filed a case against the decision but the government won the case. The industries department order was in keeping with the court's directives and was also subject to the final decision by the court, Chandy said.

An expert committee would also be established to undertake a scientific study into the environmental impact of the proposal, the chief minister added. After receiving the committee's report, the government would discuss it with people's representatives before taking a final decision on the matter. Chandy also claimed that the move enjoyed the support of industries minister P K Kunhalikutty.

Among the opponents of the industries department's order was tourism minister K C Venugopal, who had said the issue was not discussed in the cabinet meetings he had attended after Chandy took over. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) had threatened to launch a strong protest.

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