A recent report in the Times of India indicates that police have arrested 23 people in four different granite firms for large-scale illegal quarrying in Madurai district, and PRP Exports, one of the largest stone producers in India -- and the world -- has been shut down by government officials. "Of the 23 arrested, 14 are from PRP Exports, three from Sindhu Granites, two from GG Granites and four from Madura Granites," a senior police official told the newspaper.

"Though they are employees of the granite companies, they were pretty well aware of the illegal quarrying and thereby accomplices in the activity. They were also beneficiaries in the illegal quarrying." In the wake of these arrests, another news source within India -- The Hindu -- reports that PRP Granite Exports partner P. Palanichamy surrendered before the Madurai district police on August 18. According to the source, Palanichamy submitted a four-page document denying the allegations against the granite company owned by him and his associates/companies.

Further hearings were scheduled for late August, and as of press time, representatives from PRP Exports have not responded to Stone World's inquiries seeking comment. According to local news reports, government task forces teams found that many water bodies, tanks and canals were either destroyed or encroached upon by the operators of the illegal quarrying operations.

Based on complaints from Village Administrative Officers concerned, the Keelavalavu and Othakadai police had registered cases against PRP Granite Exports, Olympus Granites and Sindhu Granites on charges of criminal offences and for violating provisions of the Mines and Minerals Act. A day after Palanichamy's arrest, police broke open the seal at PRP Exports and seized several incriminating documents in the presence of Palanichamy, according to IBNLive.com, an Indian news source that works in conjunction with CNN.

Officials also noted that 38 trucks operated by PRP Exports either did not have proper registration numbers, or had no registration numbers whatsoever. All of the trucks were seized. While there is some speculation that the government will take over these operations, no official word has been released. Historically, the Indian government has recognized the importance of the nation's stone industry, and it has offered a great deal of support to the sector -- particularly for export-oriented companies. Stone World will bring you more details on this matter as they become available.