To combat illegal gold mining in the Devala-Pandalur region of the Gudalur division, the Forest Department in Tamil Nadu has deployed drones to track the miners. TNM had done an extensive ground report on illegal gold mining thriving inside the forest region, which put the lives of both wildlife and humans at risk. The latest move to deploy drones to track the illegal activity was based on the orders of the Gudalur forest officer. A team headed by Pandalur Forest Range Officer G Ramkumar carried out surveillance work to identify the illegal gold miners via a drone camera.
According to reports, there are over 5,000 illegal gold mines spread across 640 hectares of forest land in the Devala-Pandalur region. While some of the mines are abandoned, others are still being used by miners living in the nearby villages.
A Pandalur forest staff told media persons that drones are being used to keep miners away from the forest and to get an overall view of the illegal mining activity thriving in the area. “The miners escape as soon as they hear vehicle movement inside the forest. As it was raining today (Thursday), surveillance could not be carried out for long, by road and using the drone. However, deploying drones will surely cut down the thriving activity in the area,” said the forest official
On October 5, a baby elephant had accidentally fallen into a 12-foot-deep mining pit. It was later rescued by the forest officials. A few days later, on October 9, the remains of an adult elephant were found at a mining site. It had reportedly died after falling into the mines six months ago.
Officials had told TNM that chances of an animal or even a human falling into one of the mining pits are high, though rescuing them or even finding their remains is nearly impossible.
In its ground report, TNM also found that though middle-aged men and women have been involved in gold mining for the past several years, many degree holders and engineering graduates, too, have now ventured into the illegal business.
According to a report in The Hindu, the Forest Department, on November 8, detained four men who allegedly dug a new mine pit in Cherambadi Range. A fine of Rs 40,000 was imposed on them.