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Sand quarrying halted in Tamil Nadu; construction activities to be hit

Construction works could soon come to a halt in Tamil Nadu, especially the city, if the state government continues to delay the restoration of operations in its nine functional quarries. Mining has been allegedly suspended in the quarries since Friday night.

Sand quarrying halted in Tamil Nadu; construction activities to be hit
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Chennai

While state PWD (Public Works Department) officials were unwilling to comment, let alone act to resume quarrying operations there, sand lorry operators have confirmed to DTNext that their lorries were being turned away since Friday night by the contractor. Though different groups of sand lorry operators suggested different reasons, they concurred that no sand was being supplied from any of the quarries since Friday night.

Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owner’s Federation president, S Yuvaraj, attributed the halting of quarrying operations to monopoly of the loading contractor and said that a court order stipulates manual loading in quarries operation from before 2013, but the loading contractor, who handles all ten quarries, has suspended operations in all quarries, insisting that only mechanized loading would be possible. Loading in seven of the nine quarries must be done manually as they have been doing business prior to 2013. 

R Munirathinam, president of Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owner’s Association, who claimed that around one lakh lorries have been rendered jobless and police personnel were manning the quarries from Friday, told DT Next that sand price could jack up to Rs 40,000 per load (four units). According to industry sources, the going rate of a load of sand (four units) was Rs 18, 000 – 20,000 till Thursday. Cessation of quarrying operations would be a double whammy for sand suppliers and builders equally alike considering that sand lorry operations had recently petitioned the chief minister’s cell to reopen closed quarries in Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram. 

“Loading contract of all quarries was awarded to a single contractor. Hence, he has unilaterally suspended quarrying in all places simultaneously,” Yuvaraj explained, adding that the logjam in quarrying could be a blessing in disguise if the government seizes the opportunity and brings in some transparency in sand quarrying, where the loaders have become traders owing to lack of government’s intervention. 

Sourcing sand from the 30 odd stocking yards may not be a viable option, considering that supply from the ten quarries were happening at five-day interval with supply falling way short of the demand. Even in a few stock yards, which catered to the requirements of elite clientele, sand loads cost a bomb. Attempts to contact PWD officials provide futile as they either ‘pleaded’ ignorance or passed the buck on to their colleagues, on condition of anonymity.

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