Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cement firm accused of illegal mining in Junagadh

Cement firm accused of illegal mining in Junagadh

Ahmedabad Mirror By Dilip Patel

The Hajipura garden facelift will cost Rs 60 lakh

The Gujarat-based company was served notice for unauthorised quarrying of limestone on 320 hectares, worth as much as Rs 640 crore in govt royalty

A leading cement company has been accused of illegal limestone quarrying over 320 hectares in Junagadh district over three years. The Junagadh collector recently issued notices to the cement company as also farmers who had leased the land for the purpose without permission.

According to the notice, the Gujarat-based company quarried limestone on 120 hectares of farm land and 200 ha of cattle grazing land belonging to the gram panchayat.

Sarpanch Somabhai Chavda of Rampra village of Veraval taluka in Junagadh lodged the complaint in a local court against the mining. He said the company encroached grazing land in the village to start its illegal operations.

Following the complaint, the state government's geology and mining department sent a team to survey the claim and assess the extent of mining.

Team member R H Patel said the survey revealed that limestone mining had been illegally done on 120 ha of agricultural land under survey no. 87/P/9 and 87/P/7. Sources said, according to rules, the government is entitled to a royalty of Rs 2 crore for every hectare of land put under limestone mining.

Thus, the cement company which allegedly carried out mining on 320 hectares in Junagadh district would be liable to pay the government as much as Rs 640 crore in royalty.

Farmer and local BJP leader Razak Isabhai said he complained to Home Minister Amit Shah about the illegal mining on five occasions in the past.

Following this, he claimed he got threat calls from officials of the cement company. Isabhai said he then wrote to the collector and sought police protection. He said he took up the matter as the illegal quarrying was causing the government a loss of about Rs 700 crore.

The survey report said the cement company also mined minerals from several plots of farm land and covered up the craters with rubble weighing at least 1,500 tonnes. Sources said the government plans to itself pursue the issue with the company after illegations of inaction by the district collectorate.

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