Chandigarh, October 18: To bring further transparency in the sand mining business, the Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday approved several major policy changes to enable the government to grant contracts by auction of mining blocks in strategically established clusters through progressive bidding instead of the earlier process of auction by individual mines.
The move would help substantially increase the royalty receipt of the State Exchequer, provide adequate supply at fair price to the consumer, and curb illegal mining.
The decision came during the Cabinet meeting held today under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
It was decided that the new policy would come into force two months after the Cabinet approval to the Punjab State Sand and Gravel Policy, 2018 and amendment to the Punjab Minor Mineral Rules, 2013, according to an official spokesperson.
It has also been decided that the Department of Mining would launch an online Punjab Sand Portal for sale of sand to all consumers, small or medium. All transactions/payments will be captured through online real-time monitoring system. The sale of sand would be controlled by electronic documentation linked to central documentation, with modern facility, and the daily progress report would be uploaded on the portal.
Notably, during 2017-18, four progressive bid e-auctions of minor mineral mines were held. Due to speculative bidding in these auctions, it resulted in a significant number of mines being auctioned at very high prices. However, many of the contractors failed to operationalise these mines, which led to dearth of supply of sand and gravel, causing the market price of these commodities to remain high.
This was followed by consultations at various levels, including at the level of the Chief Minister. Based on these, the department had prepared a draft policy viz. ‘Punjab State Sand and Gravel Policy, 2018’ and corresponding amendment in Punjab Minor Mineral Rules, 2013 and Agreement Form L-1.
Elaborating on the salient features of the new policy, the spokesperson said that the mining rights of concession quantity of sand and gravel in Mining Blocks identified by a process would be put to bidding through transparent e-auction process. Only registered companies, partnerships, societies including cooperative societies, sole proprietorships, individuals and consortia of up to three such entities would be eligible to bid, subject to fulfillment of certain conditions. The average annual turnover of the bidder during the last three financial years ending 31st March must not be less than 50% of the reserve price of the Mining Block he bids for. In the case of Consortium, the combined technical and financial capacity of all the members shall be considered for the eligibility.
Further, the bidder shall provide an undertaking to ensure the presence of Site Manager(s), a JE level officer (Diploma in Civil/Mechanical/Electrical Branches preferably) and Software professional(s) at all mines. The bidder should either own or provide an undertaking that he will obtain or hire the requisite machinery for the Mining Block he plans to bid for and the policy has given a detailed set-up of machinery required for different level of capacities of mines.
The new policy provides for the quantity of sand and gravel, to be called ‘Annual Concession Quantity’, that the concessionaire shall be allowed to mine per annum from a block as detailed criteria given for seven blocks of the state. The estimated available quantity in each block is however indicative and it would be the responsibility of the bidder to make his own assessment of it before bidding.
The concessionaire would be responsible to identify the mines in the block allotted to him, obtain consent of the land owners, arrange for all infrastructural requirements like a right of way and obtain all clearances before the starting of mining operations. The concessionaire would intimate Chief Engineer Drainage seven day in advance when a mining is to be carried out in river bed so that it does not affect the flow of river or damage embankments. The authorities have been directed to provide environment and other clearances in a time bound manner and for this purpose Executive Engineer at the Headquarter would act as a nodal authority.
The spokesperson said that to check overpricing of sand and gravel, a cap has been put on their sale price. Both sand and gravel shall not be sold by the concessionaire at the mining site at more than Rs.9 per cubic feet, which includes cost of loading on the vehicle. The maximum rates linked to distance that can be charged per cubic feet for transportation of sand and gravel will be notified. The maximum rate of sand and gravel chargeable from the end customer will in no case exceed the sum of above said two rates. It would be the responsibility of the concessionaire to dispatch sand and gravel through only those transporters who agree to transport it at so notified or less rates. Violation of agreement would result in its cancelation and forfeiture of the security amount given by the bidder. The policy has given detailed reserve price of all the blocks.
The spokesperson said that it would be mandatory for concessionaire of each block to notify rates of sand on the new portal to be launched by the department, and the summary of online order, quantity of available sand at mine would be available on the portal. Online orders could be booked through divisional mining office or sub divisional mining office, and mobile app for booking orders would be launched soon. All vehicles to be used in transportation of sand would also be registered on Sand Portal, and each mine would have an electronic weigh bridge integrated with Central server.
As per policy weighment slips for transportation of sand with features like barcodes, QR codes will be stamped with the date and time, and vehicles would be tracked with the GPS/RFID tags. The policy also mandates geo-tagging of all mines while conducting physical inspections, and boundaries of mines would be checked using coordinates recorded by GPS device and the monitoring team would be able to check whether any mining activity is going on outside the permitted area or not.
The mines which are currently auctioned would continue to operate till the completion of their tenure and shall be excluded from the mining rights to be auctioned under the policy, the spokesperson clarified.