How tech can help regulate mining

Odisha Integrated Mines, Mineral Management System (i3MS) simplifies mining process in the state by putting all data online

shivangi-narayan

Shivangi Narayan | March 15, 2014


Project i3MS monitors illegal mining activities
Ashish Asthana

Monitoring of the mines, especially whether they were following the clearance criteria or not, was difficult for the department of mines (DoM) due to resource limitations. According to Umesh Chandra Jena, Deputy Director, DoM, Odisha, there were hundreds of physical files, which made it difficult to search specific documents. No one knew when the miner was extracting beyond the specified quantity of mineral for which he was given permission. Miners were also setting up mines without a mining plan.

The simplification idea
The mining department realised they needed an electronic system to alert them when the lease for the mines expired, or if the mining companies worked without or overshot their consent for the quantity of mineral that could be extracted. “Before we could understand what is going on, two to three months used to pass which was enough time for the miners to dig out more material than they were allowed to,” said Jena.

 Under the project i3MS, the department put all the data in a computer database which made it easily searchable. The software was developed by Network Software Limited (NSL) and CSM Technologies. “The primary work in i3MS was the formulation of database.”

Implementation of i3MS
In order to prepare the database, the department codified all the data with a 12-digit code comprising of a district/circle/company/mineral/type of lease or licence. These codes were integrated with the user agencies. These user agencies raise an alarm when the lease gets expired or if the mining company overshot the allowed quantity of minerals.

“Then we went to the issue of permissions,” said Jena. There are a number of permissions needed for the mining operation and much of corruption takes places in the permissions, like the duplication of transit passes. Hence, the department decided to provide the permission for mining online through which the miners could take permissions online without physically coming to the department. “It is only when people come to the department to take the permission that corruption can take place. So we removed the face-to-face interaction of people and officials to counter this problem,” he said.

Steps which went a long way to control mining frauds
The mining department also issued challans for truckers who transport the material. The challan was also issued online through i3MS to remove any corruption as truckers initially could get challans to transport more than the permitted material. There was an e-pass generated for the exact quantity of the minerals allowed for being transported out of the mines. “The computer will only generate the pass for the required quantity which is set by the daily target, once at zero it would not generate further passes,” said Jena.

The e-pass consists of two bar codes. One is two-dimensional bar code, which has the entire permit page coded on it, and the other is a single-dimensional bar code which contains a unique code of 16 digits, which means it cannot be duplicated.

“All the above procedures worked for the bonafide people inside the mines. However, in the mining world, there are many people who do not bother about the system and find ways to work around them. Hence we also put many checks and balances to make sure that such people are discouraged,” he said. According to Jena, to stop such people the department put some check gates and weighbridges near the vulnerable area of the mines, where every vehicle carrying mineral was inspected.

If the vehicle did not have the e-pass, it was immediately caught at the check gate. Even if the driver had an e-pass, it was read and checked for its authenticity. Only then the vehicle was allowed to move.

Every mine has its own weighbridge and check gates. They are also present at the railway gates when the minerals are transported by the train.
With the i3MS software, now data is instantly captured with the online project. “Real-time truck movement tracking can happen with the help of truck number and transporter now,” he said. Annual revenue collection, before the launch of the project in 2010, used to be below '2,000 crore. But in 2012-13 the figure had gone up to '5,600 crore and the current target for the department is '6,600 crore.

“All the working mines have been included in the system and no mine has been left out. Every mineral being mined in Odisha is being captured and a daily report of transaction is made and sent for monthly returns to the company or miners,” said Jena.

“We have integrated the permissions with their returns. If a company fails to file their return on time then it cannot obtain the permission for future mining until it files those returns,” he said.

What ails i3MS?
However, the implementation of the project comes with its share of challenges – the biggest challenge being computer literacy. “All 6,400 mining engineers know mining technology well but they are not computer-literate so it is difficult to make them understand and this is where the challenge lies. In the computer if you put in garbage, garbage will come out. Hence it becomes difficult when people do not feed proper data,” he said.

Looking out to the future
In future, the Mining Department hopes to take bigger leases and leases for new mines.“Right now, we only monitor the existing mines,” said Jena.
The Government of India is going for the mines tenement system which is being developed by NIC which will take the processing of the entire mining process online on a larger scale. “It will be a 100 percent paper-free system and should not take more than a year to take off.”

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