Illegal entities steal minerals from Salem

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State Geology and Mining Department finds ‘legally non-existent company’ among those that plundered valuable resources

In the course of over two decades, the Chalk Hills of Salem district have been mined extensively and illegally — this is the conclusion of a preliminary report by a special team constituted by the State’s Geology and Mining Department submitted to the Tamil Nadu government on August 19. This large-scale illegal mining has taken place in a few villages in the district of Salem, barely 50 km from the Chief Minister’s hometown of Edappadi.

Magnesite is a mineral found occurring naturally over 17 sq. km. of the Chalk Hills of Salem district. It occurs along with another rare mineral dunite. Magnesite is a carbonate of magnesium and is an important mineral used in the refractories for the steel industry, in fertilisers, pharma and food processing industries. Dunite is another rare mineral occurring largely in Salem, Tamil Nadu. Dunite is used in the iron and steel industry and as a refractory material. It is also used in paints and as an abrasive.

In the past two decades, 67 units meant for grinding of these minerals have come up in the Chalk Hills close to Yercaud. Of these, 40 were inspected by the two-member team comprising T. Muruganandham, Deputy Director of Geology and Mining, Chennai, and K. Kalaivanan, Assistant Geologist, Erode, on August 3. The inspected units did not have the necessary licences and permissions to operate. “On inspection, it is also found that these units are not maintaining any records for storage and sale of minerals,” said the report, adding, “Nearly 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of dunite and 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of magnesite per month were consumed in the grinding unit.”

The report states that nine persons have died in the illegal mining pits in the Chalk Hills. Mining methods themselves are dangerous: blasting near high-tension lines, close to inhabited areas and labourers working without any protective gear have all been highlighted in the report.

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