Why in the News?


The Supreme Court of India has mandated the swift shutdown of 68 mines located within one kilometre of the Sariska critical tiger habitat because mining has detrimental effects on the tiger reserve. The court reproached the Rajasthan government for misinterpreting its directives, erroneously believing that the one-kilometre exclusion zone pertains solely to national parks and sanctuaries and not to tiger reserves.


Impact of Court’s decision on local community


Positive Impacts

  • Environmental Protection: The closure will help protect the Sariska tiger reserve from further environmental degradation, preserving biodiversity and maintaining the ecological balance.
  • Wildlife Conservation: The move will enhance efforts to conserve tigers and other wildlife, ensuring that mining activities do not disturb their habitats.
  • Health Benefits: Reducing mining activities can decrease air and water pollution, improving the health outcomes of local residents who might suffer from respiratory and other pollution-related illnesses.
  • Regulatory Compliance: The order reinforces the importance of adhering to environmental regulations and can set a precedent for stricter enforcement in other regions.

Negative Impacts

  • Economic Hardship: Many locals depend on mining for their livelihoods. The sudden closure of these mines could lead to job losses and economic distress for families who rely on this industry for income.
  • Social Disruption: The order might cause social unrest if adequate measures are not taken to support displaced workers. This could include protests or increased poverty levels in the community.
  • Need for Alternative Employment: There will be an urgent need to create alternative employment opportunities for those affected by the closures. This could be challenging and require significant investment and time.
  • Short-term Economic Decline: The local economy might experience a downturn as the money flow generated from mining activities decreases. Businesses that provided goods and services to the mining sector could also be affected.


What is illegal Mining?


Illegal mining refers to mining activities that are conducted without the necessary permits, licenses, or regulatory approvals from the relevant authorities. It often involves the extraction of minerals, metals, and other geological materials in ways that violate environmental, safety, and legal standards. 


Reasons for Illegal mining


Economic Incentives

  • High Demand for Minerals: The lucrative market for precious metals and minerals drives individuals and groups to engage in mining without legal permits to capitalise on high prices quickly.
  • Poverty and Unemployment: In regions with scarce job opportunities, people may resort to illegal mining for survival and income.

Regulatory and Enforcement Gaps

  • Weak Governance: Poor regulatory frameworks and lack of stringent enforcement allow illegal mining operations to flourish without facing significant legal consequences.
  • Corruption: Corrupt practices among officials can lead to issuing illicit permits or turning a blind eye to illegal activities, further entrenching illegal mining.

Accessibility and Remote Locations

  • Remote Areas: Mining sites often lie in remote, hard-to-monitor areas where enforcement of laws is challenging, allowing illegal activities to proceed unnoticed.
  • Technological Advancements: Modern technology and equipment make it easier for illegal miners to extract resources efficiently, even in secluded locations.

Social and Political Factors

  • Lack of Awareness: Communities involved in illegal mining may not fully understand the legal implications or environmental impact of their activities.
  • Political Instability: In regions experiencing conflict or political instability, enforcement of mining regulations is often compromised, creating a fertile ground for illegal mining.

Profit Motive and Organized Crime

  • High-Profit Margins: The significant profits from selling illegally mined minerals incentivise individuals and criminal organisations to continue these activities.
  • Organised Crime Networks: Illegal mining is sometimes orchestrated by well-organized criminal groups that exploit resources systematically and profitably.


Impact of Illegal Mining

Illegal mining has extensive and diverse impacts, affecting numerous sectors and communities. Here are some major consequences:

Economic Impacts

  • Unfair Competition: Legal mining companies face unfair competition from illegal miners, who can offer lower prices since they bypass regulatory costs and environmental responsibilities.
  • Loss of Employment Opportunities: Communities lose formal employment opportunities due to illegal mining, which diminishes overall job availability in the sector.
  • Economic Instability: Illegal mining undermines economic stability by decreasing government revenue and increasing expenses related to environmental damage and social conflicts.

Environmental Impacts

  • Environmental Degradation: Illegal mining leads to severe environmental harm, including deforestation, water pollution, soil erosion, and destruction of natural habitats.
  • Mercury Pollution: Artisanal gold mining, a prevalent form of illegal mining, often involves mercury, which poses serious health and environmental risks.
  • Land Degradation: This type of mining results in land degradation, reducing the availability of arable land, economic crops, and forests.

Social Impacts

  • Social Unrest and Instability: The socio-economic fallout from illegal mining, such as displacement, unemployment, and environmental harm, can cause social unrest and instability.
  • Displacement and Human Rights Abuses: Illegal mining frequently entails human rights violations, including the forced displacement of indigenous communities and worker exploitation.

Policy and Regulatory Implications

  • Strengthening Regulatory Frameworks: Improving regulatory frameworks and enforcement is essential to deter and manage illegal mining activities.
  • Formalization of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining: Promoting the formalisation of artisanal and small-scale mining can mitigate environmental impacts and foster economic growth.
  • Community Engagement and Empowerment: Involving local communities in decision-making processes and empowering them is crucial for sustainable mining practices.


Legal Framework to tackle the issue of illegal Mining


The legal framework for mining in India is governed by central and state laws, with the central government holding the authority to regulate mines and mineral development as per the Constitution of India. Key legislation and policies governing the mining sector include:

Central Laws

  1. Mines Act, 1952 and Mines Rules, 1955: These laws oversee labour and safety standards in mines.
  2. Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act): The main legislation regulating the development and management of mines and minerals in India, incorporating:
    • Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 (MCR): Governs the issuance of mineral concessions.
    • Mineral Conservation & Development Rules, 1988 (MCDR): Focuses on mineral conservation and sustainable development.
    • The Minerals (Other than Atomic and Hydrocarbon Energy Minerals) Concession Rules, 2016 (MCR, 2016) manage concessions for minerals other than atomic and hydrocarbon energy minerals.
  3. Offshore Areas Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002 (OAMDR Act) and Offshore Areas Mineral Concession Rules, 2006: Regulate mineral resources in India’s maritime zones, including territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone.

State Laws

  • State-Specific Rules under the MMDR Act: States have their own rules for minor minerals, such as the Maharashtra Minor Minerals Extraction (Development and Regulation) Rules, 2013.

National Mineral Policy

  1. National Mineral Policy, 1993: Encouraged private investment, including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and advanced technology in mining.
  2. National Mineral Policy, 2008: Emphasized sustainable mining practices.
  3. National Mineral Policy, 2019: Focuses on sustainable development and resource efficiency in mining.

District Mineral Foundation (DMF)

  • Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015: This act requires mine leaseholders to contribute 10-30% of the royalty amount to the DMF for socio-economic development and environmental protection in mining areas.

Environmental Regulations

  1. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): All mining projects must evaluate environmental impacts.
  2. Forest Clearance Provisions: Regulate mining activities in forested areas.
  3. Coastal Zone Regulations: Govern mining in coastal regions.
  4. Water and Air Pollution Prevention Acts: Control pollution from mining operations.

Other Initiatives

  1. Sustainable Development Framework: Under the MMDR Act 2015, mining operations must adhere to sustainable development principles.
  2. Advanced Technologies: Adoption of advanced technologies, including geophysics applications and 2D/3D seismic surveys, for resource efficiency and environmental sustainability in mining.


Prelims Based Question


Q1. Consider the following statements:

  1. The Mines and Minerals Act 2015 requires mine leaseholders to contribute 10-30% of the royalty to the District mineral foundation.
  2. Mining and Mineral resources as an item is included in Union list in the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India.

Choose the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a). 1 Only

(b). 2 Only

(c). Both 1 and 2

(d). Neither 1 nor 2




Mains Based Question 


Q1. Critically analyse the SC order to ban illegal mining near the Tiger reserves. How does illegal mining near protected areas adversely affect the critical habitat of endangered species?


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