The Indian Express explains the business of sand mining

The UP government's suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal has thrown the spotlight on illegal sand mining, which she had cracked down on. A look at what sand mining entails:

How important is sand as a mineral?

Sand is classified as a minor mineral by the Ministry of Mines along with clay, marble and a few others. Together these account for over 12 per cent of the total mineral production in the country.

What is the market for sand?

Silica sand is used for the manufacture of glass, a prominent industry in UP. Other sand is used for all grades of construction from buildings to roads. So, as economic activity expands, the demand for sand too rises.

How much does UP produce?

The state is one of the country's leaders in sand production. The value of mineral production in the state in 2010-11 was Rs 4,304 crore, of which minor minerals accounted for an estimated Rs 2,750 crore. But due to increasing strictness in rules, production of silica sand decreased by 29 per cent (data as per Indian Bureau of Mines, 2010-11).

How much of the mining is authorised??

Data with the Indian Bureau of Mines, the country's only authorisation body for major minerals, shows UP has 23 licensed mines (2010-11). These include eight silica sand mines, a pretty low number. The responsibility for registering minor minerals lies with a state directorate, which can register mines of size up to 5 square hectares. The UP government, however, has no updated record of the number of such mines.

What kind of sand mines thrives?

Since the price of sand is low at Rs 228 per tonne (UP's price is even lower, Rs 200 per tonne as on February 2013) it is uneconomical to transport it over a long distance. So mines near cities are at a premium. The problem in Noida and other major cities flows from this factor. Sand is mined along the riverbed and sent to construction sites using inadequate capital and labour. In Faridabad region, there were once the khadars, from where there were often reports of labourers being trapped under landslides and otherwise bonded.

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