Quarry blast: PESO cancels owner’s licence

Detonators were stored in an unauthorised building, says report

The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) has cancelled the licence of the quarry at Illithodu, where two migrant workers were killed in a blast at an unauthorised storage of detonators on Monday.

The licence for possession, sale, and use, which is issued by PESO, was cancelled under the provisions of the Explosives Rules, 2008. Two migrant workers from Salem in Tamil Nadu and Chamarajanagar in Karnataka were killed in the explosion.

A preliminary report filed by the Controller of Explosives, PESO, Kochi, had said that the detonators were stored in an unauthorised building. The ‘magazine’ (building or structure intended for storage of explosives) as per the Explosives Rules approved by PESO was located 3 km away from the quarry. The explosives were found stacked in a building used to accommodate quarry workers.

Senior PESO officials pointed out that it was a common practice among quarry managements to store explosives in temporary spaces close to the sites. “Explosives are often stored in such unauthorised spaces for convenience. Those entrusted with the job may act on their own or under directions from above to keep the detonators in unauthorised buildings,” they said.

The rules make it clear that no person should receive from or transfer explosives to anyone for temporary storage or safe custody on licensed premises without prior approval from the Controller of Explosives or the licensing authority concerned. The magazine used for storage of explosives has to maintain a safety distance of 45 metres from nearby buildings. The building approved for storage should have walls built of rock, stone, or concrete conforming to the Indian Standards (IS).

The building near the quarry site had a total carpet area of around 1,200 sq.ft. It was meant to house workers and store their personal belongings. The investigating officials were not able to assess the exact quantity of explosives at the unauthorised space, as it was completely destroyed in the blast. An estimate of the quantity of explosives used can be ascertained after verification of permission given by the Director General of Mines Safety under the Mines Act, they said.

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