Revoke amendments  permitting private companies to undertake beach sand mining

Revoke amendments to Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDRA), especially with reference to entry of private companies in beach sand mining

alappad sand mining



Shri Rajiv Gauba

Union Cabinet Secretar

Dear Shri Gauba,

I have time and again cautioned the government not to amend the Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDRA), as proposed by the Ministry of Mines, in a way that hurts the interests of the adivasis, runs counter to the spirit of federalism and, specially for permitting private companies to undertake beach sand mining that involves scarce strategic atomic minerals. My letter may be readily accessed at

With special reference to beach sand mining, I may inform you that in a PIL filed by me before Hon’ble Supreme Court against beach sand mining by one private company, the Union Ministry of Mines had affirmed before the court that all private beach sand mining leases had been revoked in 2019. I have extracted below the relevant portion for your ready reference.

“The beach sands along the coasts of Odisha, AP, T. Nadu and Kerala are rich in atomic minerals, especially Monazite, the raw material for the extraction of Thorium, which constitutes the primary fuel for India’s third stage nuclear development programme. The Indian beaches have a significantly large proportion of the Monazite resources in the world. 

The British had exploited this at the cost of India prior to Independence, though in a limited manner. However, on the advice of Dr Homi J Bhabha, the architect of the country’s nuclear development strategy, the then Prime Minister, Nehru had decided to ban private mining of the beach sands immediately after India became independent. 

Despite pressure from many foreign agencies to get access to these precious minerals through some domestic private companies, the successive governments resisted opening up these minerals for private mining, till the previous UPA government opened the floodgates to it during its tenure. It is important to note that, no matter which atomic mineral is extracted, it invariably contains Monazite as an impurity. Though the Ministry of Mines and the DAE had imposed a low upper threshold for the presence of Monazite in the atomic minerals extracted, over the time, the UPA government relaxed the need for “Monazite Certification” at the exporting ports, creating an enormous scope for Monazite being smuggled out on a large scale. The Madras High Court took note of this suo moto and ordered a thorough investigation. I had also filed a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court on a similar matter concerning AP. In the matter under adjudication before  the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Mines had filed a statement in 2019 to the effect that private mining of the beach sand minerals would not be permitted. This was a welcome step taken by the government.

Since then, as expected, there has been intense pressure from many private companies, indirectly supported by foreign agencies, to relax the rules once again to allow private mining of the beach sand minerals, apparently for getting access to valuable atomic minerals, especially Monazite. It appears that the present government has unwittingly or otherwise fallen prey to this, as evident from the changes proposed now in Para 6 of the latest Public Notice. These changes effectively bring back private miners into beach sand mining, a sure way to open the floodgates to the export of Monazite, to the detriment of the national interest. In my view, this should not be permitted under any circumstances”

The Centre does not seem to have heeded to my cautionary advice as it seems to be rushing headlong into permitting private companies to mine beach sands, insensitive to its adverse implications for the national interest.

To my distress, I have just come across a news report ( that indicates that the Adani Group has since formed two subsidiaries with the following objective:

To carry on in India or elsewhere in the world, all or any industry, trade, importing & exporting of all type of goods, infrastructure developments including the business to develop and operate the coal & other minerals mines and blocks including development, processing of minerals, TiO2 Slag manufacturing, Pigment manufacturing, titanium sponge & metal manufacturing, monazite processing, selling heavy minerals including, but not limited to Ilmenite leucoxene, rutile, zircon, garnet, sillimanite, rare earth minerals processing, manufacturing and production of rare earth Chlorides, oxalates/carbonates, oxides, metals, manufacturing and production of sintered and bonded permanent magnet and sales thereof and operation of coal & other minerals blocks as contractor or subcontractor or in any other form and to prospect for, explore, mine, quarry, beneficiate, develop, derive, discover, excavate, dredge for, open, work on mine, win, purchase, crush, polish, smelt, manufacture, process, generate etc.”

It is not clear whether the setting up of such subsidiaries by the Adani Group has something to do with the hasty manner in which the Centre had rushed into amending the MMDRA! This is indeed distressing. Has the Centre finally caved in to corporate pressure to amend the law, ignoring its implications for the national interest? If it is so, it is unfortunate, to say the least.

India cannot afford to ignore the strategic importance of atomic minerals, especially Monazite and to open the floodgates to private companies for beach sand mining, who operate primarily on profit-maximisation as their objective, amounts to ignoring the national interest. This certainly calls for a wider discussion, among the public and in the Parliament.

May I once again demand that the Centre revokes the proposed amendment forthwith?


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to Government of India

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