JK’s marble industry lying flat

Denotification of Kupwara mines pending for years

MUDDASIR ALI

Srinagar, Dec 13: The state government is sitting over a proposal for reviving extraction of marble resources in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district since early 1990s when the industry was shut.
 Official sources told Greater Kashmir that the Geology and Mining Department had approached the state government in 2005 seeking de-notifying of around 50 hectares of forest land in Zirhama, Trehgam, Waterkhani, Aawora, Reshwari and Marhoma areas of Kupwara to restart the exploration.
 “There are around 60000-70000 cubic meters of marble reserves worth tens of thousands of crores of rupees lying unexplored in the mines,” said a senior official in the department.
 The sources said G&M was asked to carry out mapping of the areas where the marble mines are located and prepare a detailed survey report on it.
 “As per the rules the state government has powers to allow extraction in areas measuring up to 50 hectares of land while as it requires Union Forest and Environment ministry’s clearance for land beyond 50 hectares,” the official said.
 Optimistic of getting approval, the department had after a gap of more than one decade in 2006, invited tenders to extract marble from the identified mines.
 Leases for exploitation were granted in early 1980s which had subsequently expired. Last time the full fledged exploration was carried out was in 1985.
 “Unfortunately there was no response from the government to the revival plan and the matter got a silent burial,” the official said.
 Director G&M, Farooq Ahmad Khan said the department again approached the forest department for clearance in 2010. “However, the Forest department sought environment clearance from the Union Environment Ministry before taking a call on it.”
 The Union Ministry has now referred the case to its state level committee in J&K, sources said.
 “We have approached the committee few months back,” the Director confirmed, adding that the process was moving on.
 Marble is a metamorphic rock formed due to re-crystallization of limestone and is used for flooring, slabs and decoration purposes.
 Kashmir is bestowed with huge deposits of the decorative stone discovered in Kashmir around 1980. In the following year a semi-mechanized plant was set up at Kupwara to take up the extraction work.
 The official said Kashmir marble has different colours- White Black Zebra, White Pink, Black, Maroon and Green- which gave it an edge over other marbles.
 Though private entrepreneurs had shown interest in the new industry, it received a setback when armed struggle broke out in early 1990s.
 “At least 13 to 15 blocks were identified for extraction, which were subsequently leased out to around 10 local entrepreneurs,” said another official. “A few mines were also leased out to the JK Minerals.”
 However the industry was closed down before it could take off in the 90s. But there was a glimmer of hope when small scale exploration restarted in 2000.
 “Now what is worrying is state government’s least attention to give a lease of life to this neglected sector,” the official said. “It has the potential to support state economy provided government takes the industry seriously,” said the official.”
 Experts say the marble industry could fetch the state more than Rs 50,000 crore, if the industry is set up on modern lines and its mining, cutting finishing and polishing is done using modern techniques.
 “We can compete on the national market and our marble is better in quality than Rajasthan marble,” they said.

Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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