In the aftermath of the stone quarry mishap in Tirunelveli district on May 14 which claimed three lives, the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary's office has directed district collectors to conduct regular inspections at all the quarries in the state, and take immediate action if proper security measures are not in place. On May 14, six workers were trapped in a pit more than 300-feet deep after boulders came rolling down at a stone quarry in Adaimithipankulam village. Three of them were rescued alive and two othersâ€™ bodies were retrieved, while the search is still on for one more missing person.
Tamil Nadu has around 1,761 stone quarries and nearly 1,200 applications are pending before the state Environment Impact Assessment Authority for environmental clearance. The private quarry owners obtain licenses for about 100 cubic feet and then mine more than ten times that quantity.
Sources in the quarry sector told IANS that there is wide-spread corruption in the sector, and that as a result, security measures can be overlooked. The department of geology and mining of the Tamil Nadu government said that there were regular inspections at the quarries, along with drone-based aerial surveys, to find out whether the quarry owners are flouting the rules.
The department also said that a different global positioning system (GPS) will be implemented to mark the boundaries of the quarries and create geo-fencing for each quarry.
After the Tirunelveli quarry mishap, the mining and geology department will be issuing notices to all quarry owners in the state to produce documents relating to the safety measures taken at each quarry and the evacuation methods that are adopted if some untoward incident happens.
Murugan, a crane operator and a survivor of the Tirunelveli quarry mishap told IANS, "Twenty days before the mishap of May 14, a big stone boulder had fallen down during a landslide in the quarry and we had informed the management but they did not care. Such minor incidents are later turning up into major incidents taking the lives of people like us."
Former Tamil Nadu MLA K Raviarunan also sought an inspection at all quarries and has demanded strict action under the Goondas Act against violators.