Visakhapatnam: The Public Accounts Committee of the AP Legislative Assembly has exposed the illegal beach sand mining taking place in Srikakulam district, which is being said to be a scam running into thousands of crores of rupees. Trimax Sands has been violating norms at Vatsavalasa, Srikakulam district, and illegally exporting the monazite, an ore mostly found in the coastal parts of Srikakulam and from which thorium is extracted. The PAC, led by MLA Bhuma Nagi Reddy and member MLA P Vishnu Kumar Raju of BJP, visited the company and pointed out several irregularities in mining and storage of the minerals.
Trimax Sands Private Ltd (TSPL), a subsidiary of the Dubai-based Times Group, headed by politician Koneru Rajendra Prasad, produces ilmenite, rutile, zircon and corresponding minerals and launched its operations in 2010 in Srikakulam district. The heavy beach minerals are used for production of paints, ceramics, abrasives, insulation, cosmetics, leather, glass, aircraft parts and other items. The PAC members observed that the Trimax Sands had resorted to illegal mining of beach sand in 387.72 acres of disputed land at Vatsavalasa with another mining operator, East West Minerals Sands Pvt Ltd (EWMSPL). But, EWMSPL was not mentioned anywhere in Trimax Sands, which got permission to dig up to 4 m, but it dug up to 8 m. Vishnu Kumar Raju also pointed out that while permits for mining had been issued by the AP government, mined monazite from the region should, according to norms, be stored separately and handed over to the government. Trimax Sands was handing over only 30 per cent of mined monazite while illegally shipping the remaining with other mined minerals to Dubai, Singapore and South Africa.
The company stored only 9,400 tones of monazite. Monazite is a rich source of thorium (1 to 3 per cent) and uranium (0.1 per cent), but Trimax Sands claimed that the monazite in the Srikakulam region contained 0.1 per cent of thorium in the form of thorium oxide. As per estimates, a kg of monazite costs around Rs 5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh. "This scam could be worth thousands of crores of rupees. The CBI should be asked to probe it," Vishnu Kumar Raju said. The locals in Srikakulam plan to once again launch a series of agitations against Trimax Sands for cheating the locals by assuring employment and looting the state’s minerals at the cost of the environment and the people’s interest.