GUWAHATI, April 21 - The State�s Mines & Minerals department has staked claim over the minor minerals which had so far been under the control of the Forest department, resulting in a tussle between the two government departments.
The development comes at a time when revenue from the minor minerals � sand, gravel, stone, silt, sand shingles, etc., � shot up by three times, from around Rs 47 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 125.45 crore last financial year.
At a recent meeting, senior officials of the Mines & Mineral department urged the Government to transfer the administrative control of the minor minerals outside the notified forest areas to the department, citing the practice in other States of the country.
The Mines & Minerals department argues as to how the Forest department can collect royalty from the minerals which are outside the notified forest areas. Sources in the Mines and Minerals department also cited alleged mismanagement and irregularities in the mines (mahals), leading to revenue loss.
There are around 400 mines of minor minerals (sand mahals, stone quarries, etc.) and around 70 per cent, mostly the sand mines, are outside notified forest areas.
Following the move, the Forest department has written to the Mines & Minerals department, seeking to know the modus operandi it intends to apply to run the mines given the department�s limited manpower.
A Forest official claimed that according to the Assam Minor Mineral Concessions Rules, 2013, the PCCF is the custodian of the mines.
�The Mines & Mineral department says it intends to operate the mines through the Deputy Commissioner. But it is not clear what the mechanism will be on the ground level. Do they intend to use the Forest staff? If that is so, the purpose of the transfer of power will be defeated. What is the use of creating one more channel,� the official told The Assam Tribune.
Till last year, only about 35 per cent of the mahals were functional. Many cases were in courts.
Over the last one year or so, the Forest department actively reviewed the situation case by case, and after taking the necessary measures, made around 80 per cent of the mahals functional by March this year.
�Guidelines were eased, DFOs given additional powers for settlement and new mahals identified to push up the revenue. Royalty backlogs were also cleared to a big extent and pilferage reduced. Requirements of construction materials from government agencies were given priority,� the officer added.