Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, May 27
In its bid to bring down prices of sand and gravel, the state government has managed to increase the supply, but the cost of the basic construction material still is higher by around 45 per cent over the rates of last year.
Intermediaries manipulating rates
We have increased the supply of sand and aggregate by 60,000 MT per day, all through the legally allotted mines. But we have realised that the intermediaries are manipulating the prices. The government will act against them. — Harjot Singh Bains, Minister for mining
The prices of sand and gravel in different parts of the state range between Rs 2,300-Rs 4,000 per 100 cubic feet. Last year, the rates were between Rs 1,800- Rs 2,100 per 100 cubic feet.
Flummoxed by this rise in prices, the government has started examining how an “artificial scarcity” has been created by the “infamous mining mafia”. “We are studying the entire business model. So far, we have increased the supply of sand and aggregate (a mixture of sand and gravel) by 60,000 metric tonne (MT) per day, all through the legally allotted mines. But we have realised that the intermediaries between the mining contractor and the customer are manipulating the prices. The government will now act against them,” Minister for Mining Harjot Bains told The Tribune.
Interestingly, while contractors in three of the seven mining blocks have left the work midway through their contract term (at Mohali, Amritsar and Ferozepur clusters), the records show that amount of minor minerals excavated from the remaining four clusters of Ropar, Ludhiana-Nawanshahr, Pathankot and Hoshiarpur are much more this year as compared to last year.
For example, in the Ropar cluster, the quantity of the extracted minor minerals per day in May now is 11,307 MT as compared to 1,234 MT extracted in May last year. In Ludhiana, the minor minerals extracted are 22,397 MT per day as compared to 2,785 MT per day last year.
Officials, who have been entrusted with studying the mining operations, say that in May this year, the excavation of sand and gravel from legal mines is 18 lakh metric tonnes (LMT), as compared to 8 LMT in May 2021.
“While sand is available at the pitheads for Rs 550 per 100 cubic feet, its prices go up as landowners and villagers take charges for the use of land and roads. The crusher owners, too, have doubled their charges, while transporters have increased their freight charges manifold. Once it reaches the traders, they up the rates by several times, citing non-availability,” said Bains, adding that they would soon nip these malpractices in the bud.
The Minister agreed that last year, the illegal mining of these minerals had led to higher supply in the market, thus helping keep prices low. “Once the Mohali, Ferozepur and Amritsar clusters become operational again, the supply will increase and prices will fall,” he added.
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