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Supreme Court orders shutdown of 68 mines near Sariska tiger reserve

The Supreme Court has ordered the closure of 68 mines within a one-kilometre radius of the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan to protect area from illegal mining. This decision addresses long-standing legal battles over mining activities in the reserve

By Ground report
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Supreme Court orders shutdown of 68 mines near Sariska tiger reserve

Photo credit: iStockphoto/EvgenyMiroshnichenko

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The Supreme Court has ordered the closure of 68 mines within a one-kilometer radius of the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan's Alwar district to protect the reserve from illegal mining that has been ongoing for decades.

Since the 1990s, the Sariska Tiger Reserve has been the center of legal disputes over mining activities due to its rich minerals like Sangarvar, dolomite, and limestone, leading to illegal mining. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the Environment Protection Act, 1986, strictly prohibit mining within and around the reserve to preserve its ecosystem.

The Supreme Court's decision in the Pavan Singh v. Union of India and Ors. case instructed the state government to develop a closure plan and ensure compliance before the next hearing in July.

The Court addressed an application requesting the State of Rajasthan to stop illegal mining within a 10-kilometer radius of the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary without approval from the National Board for Wildlife. The application sought to halt mining within a one-kilometer area of the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH), a protected zone of the Sariska Tiger Reserve.

According to the report of Indian Express, The plea highlighted that several mining companies in Rajasthan were ignoring Supreme Court orders regarding mining activities in Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ), including the CTH areas of the Sariska Tiger Reserve. It claimed that these companies operated without necessary approvals from the National Board for Wildlife and Environmental Clearance.

Historical Context


  • In October 1991, a local NGO in Alwar filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) about illegal mining in the Sariska Tiger Reserve.

  • The Supreme Court issued an interim order prohibiting mining in the reserve and formed a truth-seeking committee led by retired High Court judge M.L. Jain.

  • In April 1993, the Supreme Court ordered the closure of 262 mines.


  • The Jain Committee submitted a report on mining around the Jamua Ramgarh Sanctuary, part of the Sariska Tiger Reserve.

  • In 2005, Goa Foundation, an NGO, filed a petition about illegal mining in Goa, leading the Supreme Court to establish rules for temporary mining in forest areas.

  • In 2006, the National Wildlife Board proposed declaring areas within 10 kilometers of national parks and sanctuaries as Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ). However, after pushback from state governments, the Supreme Court intervened, warning states to submit proposals or the board's proposal would be approved.


  • In 2012, the Jain Committee reported delays in declaring tiger reserves as ESZs.

  • The Supreme Court's 2014 judgment in the Goa Foundation case reiterated the 2006 order, mandating no mining within one kilometer of security zones, a rule not implemented until 2018.

  • In December 2018, the Supreme Court approved the National Wildlife Board's proposal, declaring areas within 10 kilometers of national parks and sanctuaries as ESZs.


  • In June 2022, the Supreme Court reduced the ESZ limit to one kilometer for national parks and sanctuaries and to 500 meters for Jamua Ramgarh Sanctuary.

  • In April 2023, the Supreme Court amended its order, delegating ESZ delimitation to central and state governments, and focused on mining issues.

  • On May 15, 2024, the Supreme Court reprimanded the Rajasthan government for misinterpreting its order and clarified that it applied to tiger reserves.

Local Concerns

Sariska residents want the forest boundary fixed to prevent miners from exploiting unclear boundaries. Locals allege that illegal mining continues within the reserve despite being documented as outside the area.

Ten years after the 1978 declaration of the Sariska Tiger Reserve, the project director issued no-exemption certificates for mining within the reserve area without proper authority, exacerbating the problem.

An environmental activist said, "The Supreme Court's ruling is a crucial step towards preserving the Sariska Tiger Reserve's fragile ecosystem. Illegal mining threatens wildlife and disrupts the ecological balance. This decision will help ensure the long-term survival of the reserve's biodiversity.'"

The Supreme Court's recent order emphasizes the need for strict enforcement of environmental laws and the struggle to balance economic development with ecological conservation. The closure of these mines is expected to reduce environmental degradation and protect the Sariska Tiger Reserve.

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