Illegal Mining: 46 killed within 7 days in mining-related transport accidents

Since December 2 last year, mining of sand and stone and their transport-related accidents have killed at least 57 people and injured another 37. As many as 46 of these deaths were reported between January 15 and January 21 in Karnataka, Gujarat and West Bengal.

Shivani Gupta
| Updated: January 30th, 2021

A truck carrying sand mined illegally from a river. Photo: Bhim Singh Rawat

Between January 15 and January 21 this year, four accidents related to the transport of mined minerals, largely illegal, have killed at least 46 people in Karnataka, Gujarat, and West Bengal. Another 31 people were injured. 

All the accidents were caused either by the overloading of boulder trucks, lorries carrying explosives for illegal stone quarrying, or negligence of drivers of sand trucks and tippers involved in mining activities.

This isn’t all. As per the data compiled by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), a network working on issues related to rivers, since December 2 last month, mining of sand and stone, and their transport related accidents and attacks have killed at least 57 people and injured another 37.

“The unregulated illegal mining is the root cause behind such deaths. Most of these accidents happened in the dark of night or early morning hours,” Bhim Singh Rawat, associate coordinator of SANDRP, told Gaon Connection.

“Hundreds and thousands of heavy trucks, often overloaded, ply through the interior roads, damaging them and making them accident prone. Then to earn more money through extra trips, drivers indulge in rash driving,” said Rawat. 

Between January 2019 and November 2020, at least 193 people have been killed in the country due to illegal sand mining. Despite stringent laws, the sand mafia continues to grow, killing both people and the ecology.

Illegal stone quarries in Karnataka

On January 21, a strong blast in a lorry carrying explosive gelatine sticks (used in stone mining) occurred near an illegal stone quarry in Hunasodu village in Abbalagere taluk of Shivamogga district, Karnataka. Six dead bodies were recovered so far. 

The impact of the blast reportedly was so powerful that tremors were felt in over 20 kilometres radius of the area. Not only did the blast shake walls of homes, shattered window glasses but also caused cracks in streets, roads and some homes, claim news reports.

The Google Earth images showed there are several stone quarries in areas in close human habitation. News reports claim that t people who were arrested did not have necessary permissions to carry out the mining operations and did not have the license to procure explosives.

As per the SANDRP report, there are over 2,000 illegal mining sites in the state against the official approval of 750 only.

Meanwhile, another deadly road accident involving a sand tipper took 11 lives and injured six severely. The accident happened on January 15 at Itigatti Cross on Pune- Bengaluru National Highway, about 13 km from Dharwad city of the state.

The Dharwad superintendent of police said that 17 women alumni of Davanagere’s Saint Paul Convent School were heading to Goa for a three-day holiday when the mini bus was rammed into by a sand laden truck.

The accident reportedly occurred when the sand tipper driver, who was allegedly over speeding, lost control while trying to overtake another vehicle. As per the report, the drivers of both vehicles had also died.

Trucks being loaded with sand mined in Yamuna river in Yamuna Nagar, Haryana, taken in Oct. 2019. Photo: Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP.

Overloaded trucks in West Bengal

On January 19, two days before the Shivamogga blast in Karnataka, an accident was reported on National Highway 31, near Jaldhaka River Bridge in Mainatali area of Dhupguri, around 35 km from Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal.

When a truck transporting riverbed minerals lost control of the vehicle, it hit a divider, and the boulders fell on the passengers of the two vehicles coming from the opposite direction. It killed 14 people and injured 18. The deceased included four children and six women. Among those dead, six belonged to the same family.

Although it was not found whether the truck was ferrying boulders legally or illegally, or why it was overloaded and plying on road in traffic hours, it was revealed that the dumper’s fitness certificate had expired, noted the SANDRP report.

Sand Mining in River Yamuna, Kanalsi village, Haryana. Photo: Surendar Solanki

Sand dumper killed 15 in Gujarat

Meanwhile, in the early hours of the same day, January 19, a sand dumper ran over 22 people while they were all sleeping on the roadside near Kosamba village on Kim Madvi NH 48, about 50 km from Surat in Gujarat.

Twelve people died on the spot, three succumbed to injuries later in the hospital, and eight sustained injuries. All the deceased were migrant workers and belonged to Banswara district of Rajasthan. 

Between January 2019 and November 2020, 193 people lost their lives due to illegal river sand mining incidents/accidents in India. This comes to more than eight people dying due to illegal sand mining across the country. In 2018, another 28 deaths due to illegal sand mining were reported.

The government data also points towards illegal sand mining in the country. The Union environment ministry submitted a report before the Rajya Sabha this year that there were 4.16 lakh cases of illegal mining recorded between 2013 and 2017. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka accounted for the most number of cases.

“Despite rules, why are illegal mining and illegal transportation going on unmonitored? It highlights a serious issue in the mining governance system,” said Rawat.