Experience with sand mining/artisinal mining cases?

One of the cases that Lawyers for Resource Justice is working on involves illegal sand mining in a community in Kenya. The organization working on this case is new to issues of mining and environmental impact assessments. Also, there are complex internal community dynamics are work - some powerful individuals within the community are benefiting from the sand mining and want it to continue, while other members are concerned about the negative impacts (there has already been severe flooding as a result) and want it stopped until there can be a better assessment.

Do any network members have experience working on cases of sand mining, or other forms of small-scale, artisinal mining where the community is divided about how to manage it?

I remember that @sonkitaconteh and @danielsesay were discussing a sand mining case last year - are there any updates or lessons from that case that you could share?


@marenabrinkhurst, the issue of sand mining has emerged as a widespread concern in India and also been in the news for the last few years. The Frontline Magazine in India did a cover story on this in July 2015 which spoke about the political nexus of the sand mining mafia, environment and social impacts of mining and the ongoing legal tussles. More details a can be accessed here and here. It involves removal of sand both from river beds as well as beaches.

The community paralegals working engaged with the CPR-Namati Environment Justice Program in India, have worked on three sand mining cases so far. Two of these have been in the Gujarat coast and one in the Uttara Kannada coast.

In Gujarat both the cases were resolved following complaints filed with the regulatory agencies and the sand mining has been stopped. The community paralegals worked with their clients to understand the impacts, the laws that are being violated and collected evidence. They subsequently filed complaints citing specific clauses of the laws as well as recent orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) related to sand mining. @bharatpatel, please do share the experiences of Shakir Bhai and Vijay Bhai here. They referred to specific circulars and court judgments which direct that no mining (including that of sand, boulders and other minor minerals) should be allowed unless there is a “environment clearance” under India’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.

In Uttara Kannada, the case was more complicated. The research led us to understand that the local self government was party to some cases of sand mining, and villages were divided. @manjumenon and @mrhegde will be in a better position to add to this. The team there has found out that there is a specific sand monitoring committee for the district and are collecting details of the composition. They are also putting together a comprehensive understanding of the environment and social impacts. The case is ongoing.

More details on the Legal Imprints of sand mining in India can be accessed in an article by @kanchikohli here.


@marenabrinkhurst, Thank you for raising the above question.

@kanchikohli, I find your reply to be on point. I find our problem to be similar with that at Uttara Kannada.

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This article highlights the action taken by the state governments in India recently to curb illegal sand mining

Karnataka has filed over 30 FIRs to combat illegal sand mining while Andhra Pradesh has realised Rs 390 crore from penalties imposed on illicit mining in 2014-15. The state has also formed women self-help groups for excavating sand and has empowered Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation to prepare feasibility report for environment clearance for sand reaches. The Chhattisgarh government has revised the ground rules for granting concession of minor minerals, while Himachal Pradesh has constituted flying squads headed by its mines supervisors at the district level and has made it mandatory to secure prior approval for stocking of sand. Gujarat has already imposed a ban on inter-state movement of sand and since the last two years the state has sold sand largely through online auctions.


Illegal sand mining is also a major problem in Sierra Leone. I agree that internal dynamics make it a difficult problem to crack. In 2014 we brought legal action on behalf of a coastal community families against a Chinese company. The company claimed to be a dealer in zircon and other sand based minerals. To avoid EIA obligations, it obtained an exporters licence from the minerals agency and proceeded to incite community members to mine sand which they bought, processed (to extract zircon) and dumped into the sea. Within a short period, the coast was depleted and the waves began eroding the land because there was no sandy buffer any more. The company finished its business and left. The community complained but the regulators did nothing. The leaders came to us and we started legal action. And then the company became interested. Sadly, we had to abandon the action because the company got to the leaders and suddenly our clients were no longer cooperating. This case made us rethink our community engagement strategy- we now go beyond the leaders (who may not always seek the interest of their people) to forge connections with as many of the inhabitants of the community as possible. The company, we understood, abandoned plans to go to other coastal communities following the action. As usual, regulators are letting the people and the environment down. For example, we didn’t understand why the company was given an exporters licence when there was no licensed miner of zircon and other sand based minerals in the country. How would they get the minerals to export? The licensing authority has not been able to answer this question.


Dear friends,

The sand mining issue continues to be an important one to reckon with in India. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has put out two documents towards “sustainable” sand mining as well as a proposed regulatory framework for sand mining. We in the process of drafting our response on and will be happy to share details once finalised.

Meanwhile, here is an article updating on the national situation, drawing linkages between sand mining and the growing construction/cement industry globally as well as peep into the new proposed regulatory framework in India: http://indiatogether.org/sand-mining-conundrum-environment

Look forward to hearing your thoughts and updates

regards Kanchi


@kanchikohli I agree its a complex issue to deal with the sand mining cases because its cartel driven. In Kenya the cartel involves powerful politicians and government officials. I will be following this discussion closely…



a recent case reported in the news in Indonesia. It quotes the data collected by WALHI East Java chapter on sand mining permits issued by the govt. The average permit area for sand mining is 5000 hectares!!!

Lack of regulatory action on sectors like sand mining are leading more and more citizens to engage in protests at huge risks to their own lives.

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Dear friends,

Just wanted to share some recent developments with the regulation of sand mining in India. Following the judicial directions and detailed stories in the Indian media pushing for the need to control the sand mafia and regulate sand mining, our ministry of environment has issued two important notifications on how this activity would need to be regulated for its environmental impacts. All sand mining whether individual or in clusters will now need an EIA and seek approval from a newly constituted regulatory body at the district level called District Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA). The two relevant notifications can be found here and here.

As discussed in an earlier posting in this chain, that the Namati EJ team had given its suggestion on the draft notifications which had been put out for public comments. We subsequently met with the government official responsible for this, upon their request, to further explain our contentions. We were happy to note that atleast five of our suggestions had been taken on board in the final notification. One of these is that a draft of the District Survey Reports that are prepared for minor minerals will now be placed in the public domain for comments for a period of 21 days. In the draft notification, there was was no scope for the same. Our recommendation regarding inclusion of an authority at the district level to monitor compliance of projects granted approval under this notification has also been accepted. The composition of the district authority was also changed based on our submission.

However, the challenge of constituting these committees and ensuring their effective functioning remains. We are hoping to be able to engage with it and also collect real time data through the EJ paralegal and legal empowerment program in India. It will be simply wonderful if we can find ways to share comparative notes on this subject across countries and learn from the constraints and opportunities to regulate sand mining other such sectors across different countries.

Look forward to hearing from members of the network on this.

best wishes Kanchi


Dear @kanchikohli, I am writing a dissertation on environmental clearance in mining of minor minerals in India, and the judicial approach taken to regulate the same. I have gone through recent judgments of both the Supreme Court of India as well as the National green tribunal regarding the same but courts can only order on law and there still a lot of areas where laws regarding environmental impact assessment are very ambiguous and hard to implement till the institutional structure is not created and funded properly by the states.


thanks @harshitbansal, will you also be looking at the implementation of the current EIA amendment at a particular site? Also other than sand mining what are the other sources of minor minerals do you think people could look at to understand the environment regulation of this sector.

Look forward to your thoughts and inputs from others. @judahkioko @shalomndiku any thoughts?

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yes @kanchikohli, the 15th Jan amended notification regarding B2 category mines and its EIA would be my chief focus along with the regulatory framework in the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957 and its amendment last year as to why such categories have been demarcated and why environmental clearance was not required earlier. What were your suggestions to the MoEFCC on the Draft EIA regulations that you wrote about in your last post. is the resource available somewhere?

we look forward to learning from your analysis. Some of the points from the submission can be accessed through these two articles: http://civilsocietyonline.com/login/?next=/column/fine-print/gaps-in-sand-mining-law/ and http://indiatogether.org/sand-mining-conundrum-environment as well as earlier writings. The submission is on record with the Ministry.


@kanchikohli @marenabrinkhurst are there any international conventions or guidelines by any organisation applicable on sand mining or artisinal mining or even sustainable and optimal methods of mining?

Dear friends

Vijay Rathod, one of our enviro legal coordinators, has shared his experience on working and resolving an illegal sand mining issue in Gir Somnath, Gujarat.


A systematic method, which included evidence, persistent follow up, use of law and a clearly articulated demand seemed to have worked. Today, sand mining has stopped and we are slowly seeing the Triveni Sangam coming back to life. While some of us have found our memories again, others have gained faith in working together to find solutions.



Wonderful! Thank you for sharing, @bharatpatel, and well done Vijay! I have added it to the Namati site too:

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Thanks you for sharing this article, Bharat. It’s great to hear about your experience firsthand @vijayrathod


Reminiscent of the corruption in the poor south. The Authorities guide the companies and potential investors in the way to dodge taxes and avoid legal implications of their actions way after the end of the contract! Uganda is no exception in this.

In fact, we have leaders/duty bearers who will even pretend to say they have shares in such companies to divide and weaken the possible action so the environmentalists. A case in point is the First family’s alleged involvement with polythene manufacturing and importing firms where they have shares.

Despite the parliament of Uganda recommended ban together with Ministry of Environment, no tangible enforcement actions have been under taken nearly 10 years since the ban was officially pronounced.

Duty bearers need to be brought to book, but the daunting question is how and when if the same CSOs can be closed at the whims and wishes of the top duty bearers in power.

Again in Uganda, Action Aid International has had their Accounts frozen by the state and they are the biggest CSO we have in Uganda. If the big boy/girl is flogged publicly, how shall the little kids feel? Shall they have the strength and courage to question the duty bearer? I seek to be guided like our brother is stated in the Sand Mining business in West Africa.

Thank you Marena for the topic of globle great concern.Sand mining has become a great environmental problem in Uganda.with technical mafias defending the big Chines companies exploiting them.Some government officials are only focusing at the immediate benefits given to them in terms of revenue and underestimating the future environmental challenges that we are likely to face as a country and the world spill over effects.We need as environment friends and activists to raise up against this with all the calm opportunites we may have.I thank you all .