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“Pakistan is deeply concerned at yet another incident of attempted illegal sale of 6 kg of Uranium in India”

“We have seen the reports about yet another incident of attempted illegal sale of 6 kg of Uranium in India.”

Responding to media queries about reports of attempted illicit Uranium sales in India, the Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson stated, “We have seen the reports about yet another incident of attempted illegal sale of 6 kg of Uranium in India.”

The MOFA Spokesperson said, “Similar incident involving 7 kg of Uranium in the Indian state of Maharashtra last month and other such reports in the past are a matter of deep concern as they point to lax controls, poor regulatory and enforcement mechanisms, as well as possible existence of a black market for nuclear materials inside India.”

MOFA spokesman said, “The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 and the IAEA Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) make it binding on states to ensure stringent measures to prevent nuclear material from falling into wrong hands.”

Pakistan reiterated its call for thorough investigation of such incidents and measures for strengthening the security of nuclear materials to prevent their diversion.

“It is equally important to ascertain the intent and ultimate user of the attempted Uranium sale given its relevance to international peace and security as well as the sanctity of global non-proliferation regime,” the statement reads.

Pakistan has expressed concern after more than seven kilogrammes of uranium was seized from two men in India

Earlier on May 8 , “Security of nuclear materials should be the top priority for all countries,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson in a statement. “There is a need for a thorough investigation of the matter as to how such sizeable quantity of uranium could become available outside any state control and identify the gaps which made this possible.”

The anti-terrorism squad in India’s Maharashtra arrested two people with seven kilogrammes of natural uranium, the Indian Express reported on May 6. It was worth Rs210 million.

The suspects have been identified as Jigar Pandya, 27, and Abu Tahir, 31. They were reportedly trying to sell uranium, which is used in nuclear power plants, online. The police claimed that the two men did not possess the licence for uranium.

In 2016, the Thane police arrested two men with eight kilogramme depleted Uranium in India..

On December 20, a truck carrying five metric tonnes of beach-sand minerals was stopped by police near Nanguneri, in the district of Tirunelveli. The driver was arrested for theft and for violating the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.

Uranium in India

Tirunelveli police said that the truck was headed to Puducherry from a plant belonging to Beach Minerals Company.

This occurred despite the state government’s 2013 ban on mining or transporting beach-sand minerals. The Wire has extensively reported on how illegal mining, transport and export have continued despite the ban.

But this latest interception follows an even more sobering discovery.

Approximately 37,000 metric tonnes of monazite, an atomic mineral found in the state’s coastal sands, is sitting in godowns belonging to a clutch of miners in Tamil Nadu. It appears to have been mined illegally, and over 777 metric tonnes appears ready for export – which is against the law.

On December 20, a truck carrying five metric tonnes of beach-sand minerals was stopped by police near Nanguneri, in the district of Tirunelveli. The driver was arrested for theft and for violating the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.

Tirunelveli police said that the truck was headed to Puducherry from a plant belonging to Beach Minerals Company.

This occurred despite the state government’s 2013 ban on mining or transporting beach-sand minerals. The Wire has extensively reported on how illegal mining, transport and export have continued despite the ban.

But this latest interception follows an even more sobering discovery.

Approximately 37,000 metric tonnes of monazite, an atomic mineral found in the state’s coastal sands, is sitting in godowns belonging to a clutch of miners in Tamil Nadu. It appears to have been mined illegally, and over 777 metric tonnes appears ready for export – which is against the law.

These numbers were presented in a report of the amicus curiae, in a case taken up suo motu by the Madras high court in 2015. The report was presented to the high court in July of 2018.

The monazite has been found mixed in with other beach-sand minerals – classified as raw sand, semi-processed minerals and processed minerals. The report makes a detailed argument that all of the stocks were illegally mined, subsequent to the 2013 ban.

The amount found packed in bags, mixed in with processed minerals,  is deemed to be ready for export, the amicus curiae wrote.

Monazite is an atomic mineral that occurs naturally in the coastal sands of three districts: Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari. It yields a number of rare-earth elements, such as neodymium and praseodymium. Both of these are in demand internationally for making high-performance rare-earth magnets – components of power wind turbines, electric vehicles and robotics.

Thorium can also be retrieved from monazite, and thorium can further be enriched to uranium.

For this reason, private firms are restricted from processing or exporting monazite. It remains a government monopoly, extracted under the purview of the Department of Atomic Energy. However, it remains legal for private companies to process and export other minerals mixed in beach sand – such as garnet, ilmenite, sillimanite, zircon and rutile – along with monazite.

These other minerals are separated, leaving behind waste sand containing monazite – or ‘monazite tailings’. These must be stored in areas or yards specified by the AERB, which is mandated to check these areas for radioactivity levels.

If a large presence of monazite is found in the bags of other beach-sand minerals, packed and ready for export, then alarm bells begin to sound.

Pakistan has demanded probe in the illegal trade of Uranium in India.

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