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Topic : Illegal Mining Threatens Sariska Tiger Reserve

GS-3 Mains : Economy & Environment

Revision Notes

Supreme Court Orders Clampdown

  • The Supreme Court of India ordered the Rajasthan government to shut down 68 illegal mines near Sariska Tiger Reserve.
  • The court has been involved in efforts to stop illegal mining activities in the reserve since the 1990s.

Challenges to Protecting the Reserve

  • Unclear Boundaries:
    • Lack of clear forest demarcation allows illegal operations to claim they are outside the reserve.
    • Inconsistent land records and missing documents hamper efforts to establish clear boundaries.
  • Legal and Administrative Issues:
    • Rajasthan issued mining leases inside the reserve in the 1980s based on invalid permits.
    • The reserve’s Tiger Conservation Plan was delayed due to boundary disputes.

About Sariska Tiger Reserve

  • Located in Rajasthan, India.
  • Established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1958 and became a tiger reserve in 1978.
  • First reserve to successfully relocate tigers.
  • Rich in mineral resources like copper.

Understanding Illegal Mining

  • Unauthorized extraction of minerals without proper permissions or violating regulations.
  • Impacts environment, economy, and local communities:
    • Deforestation, loss of biodiversity, water pollution, soil degradation.
    • Loss of government revenue due to untaxed sales.
    • Conflicts, displacement, and health problems for local populations.

Causes of Illegal Mining

  • Economic Factors:
    • High demand for minerals due to rapid industrialization and urbanization.
    • Unemployment and poverty in nearby regions.
    • High profits for those involved in illegal mining.
  • Regulatory Gaps:
    • Weak enforcement of mining laws due to lack of resources, corruption, and bureaucracy.
    • Lack of transparency in allocating mining rights.
  • Political Factors:
    • Corruption at various levels of government enables illegal mining activities.
    • Political patronage protects illegal miners from enforcement efforts.
  • Social Factors:
    • Lack of awareness among local communities about their rights and mining laws.
    • Displacement and inadequate rehabilitation of people affected by legal/illegal mining.

Types of Mining

  • Surface Mining (damages surface environment)
    • Open-pit Mining: large pits to extract near-surface minerals (copper, gold, iron, coal)
    • Quarrying: extracts building materials (stone, sand, gravel)
  • Underground Mining (dangerous due to lack of safety measures)
    • Shaft Mining: vertical tunnels for deep mineral deposits (coal, gold, diamonds)
    • Drift Mining: horizontal tunnels into hills for minerals (coal, precious metals)

Environmental Impacts of Illegal Mining

  • Deforestation: destroys ecosystems, reduces wildlife habitat, releases carbon.
  • Soil Erosion: reduces soil fertility, increases water sedimentation, degrades land.
  • Water Pollution: heavy metals, chemicals, and sediment contaminate water sources.
  • Loss of Biodiversity: disrupts ecosystems, reduces genetic diversity, threatens endangered species.

Economic Impacts of Illegal Mining

  • Loss of Government Revenue: taxes, royalties, and fees not collected.
  • Market Distortion: oversupply of minerals drives down prices, hurts legal mining companies.
  • Damage to Legitimate Mining Operations: unfair competition undermines sustainability.

Social Impacts of Illegal Mining

  • Health Hazards: air/water pollution, exposure to toxins, accidents (respiratory problems, skin diseases).
  • Displacement of Communities: forced relocation, loss of livelihoods, social unrest, poverty, cultural loss.
  • Increase in Crime Rates: theft, smuggling, violence, exploitation of communities (drug/human trafficking).

Safety Impacts of Illegal Mining

  • Unsafe Working Conditions: lack of regulations, protective equipment, training.
  • Accidents and Fatalities: cave-ins, collapses, explosions, exposure to toxic gases, injuries, deaths.

National Laws & Policies

  • Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act): The cornerstone of mining regulations, governing mineral development, concessions (licenses, leases)
  • National Mineral Policy: Sets guidelines for sustainable development of mineral resources, balancing extraction with conservation and community well-being.
  • Environmental Protection Act, 1986: Establishes environmental safeguards through Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs).

State Laws & Policies

  • State Mining Policies: Supplement the MMDR Act with state-specific rules for exploration, extraction, and environmental management.
  • State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs): Enforce environmental regulations at the state level, monitor pollution, issue clearances, and ensure compliance with environmental standards.

Enforcement Agencies

  • Ministry of Mines: The central authority formulating and implementing mineral resource policies, overseeing the MMDR Act, and coordinating with states and regulatory bodies.
  • Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM): Under the Ministry of Mines, the principal regulatory body granting concessions, conducting exploration, and ensuring compliance with mining laws.
  • State Mining Departments: Regulate mining activities within their states, issuing licenses/permits, conducting inspections, and enforcing state-level mining laws.
  • Central & State Pollution Control Boards: CPCB and SPCBs work to prevent and control pollution from mining. They monitor air/water quality, enforce control measures, and impose penalties for non-compliance.


  • Weak Enforcement:
    • Limited resources (manpower, funding, equipment, training) hinder effective monitoring.
    • Weak enforcement allows environmental damage, revenue loss, and safety risks.
  • Corruption & Interference:
    • Bribery, collusion, and political influence enable illegal operations.
    • Corruption erodes trust, distorts markets, and fosters a cycle of impunity.
  • Uncoordinated Agencies:
    • Fragmented bureaucracy with overlapping jurisdictions creates confusion.
    • Inconsistent enforcement and loopholes allow illegal miners to evade detection.
  • Tech Shortcomings:
    • Outdated technology limits monitoring and surveillance capabilities.
    • Lack of modern tools (geospatial tech, digital monitoring) hinders efforts.
  • Difficulties in Remote Areas:
    • Rugged terrain, limited access, and lack of infrastructure make monitoring hard.
    • Remote areas become safe havens for illegal miners with minimal oversight. This worsens environmental damage and risks for enforcement personnel and local communities.

Technological Solutions

  • Geospatial Technologies (GIS, satellite imagery, GPS): Precise mapping and monitoring of mining activities, land use changes, and environmental impacts.
  • Remote Sensing (aerial/satellite imagery): High-resolution views of mining sites for detecting illegal activity, environmental disturbances, and land cover changes.
  • GIS Mapping: Creation, analysis, and visualization of spatial data related to mining for informed decision-making and regulatory enforcement.
  • Digital Tools (web platforms, mobile apps, data analytics): Streamline data collection, analysis, and reporting for real-time communication, stakeholder engagement, and information sharing.
  • Drones & Satellite Surveillance: Cost-effective, non-invasive aerial monitoring using high-resolution cameras, sensors, and real-time data transmission.


Combating illegal mining requires a comprehensive plan that strengthens regulations, enforces them effectively, and utilizes innovative technologies like geospatial tools, digital platforms, and drones. This will improve monitoring, prevent environmental degradation, and promote sustainable mining practices.

Source : https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-illegal-mining-in-sariska-9339325/

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