Indian mining at cross roads

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Indian mining at cross roads

  1. 1. Indian Mining At Cross Roads A. Hussain Certified Mines managerI stood on a hill and laughed out loud I had crossed the Narmada by boat from Jalsindhiand climbed the headland on the opposite bank from where I could see, ranged across thecrowns of low, bald hills, the adivasi hemlets of Sikka, Surang, Neemgavan and DomKhedi. I could see their airy, fragile homes, I could see their fields and the forests behindthem. I could see little children with little goats scuttling across the landscape likemotorized peanuts. I knew I was looking at a civilization older than Hinduism, slated-sanctioned (by the highest court in the land) to be drowned this monsoon when the watersof the Sardar Sarovar reservoir will rise to submerge it.Why did I laugh ?Because I suddenly remembered the tender concern with which the supreme court Judgesin Delhi (before vacating the legal stay on further construction of the Sardar Sarovardam) had enquired whether adivasi children in the resettlement colonies would havechildren’s parks to play in. The lawyers representing the government had hastened toassure them that indeed they would, and what is more, that there were see-saws andslides and swings in every park. I looked up at the endless sky and down at the riverrushing past and for a brief, brief moment the absurdity of it all reversed my rage and Ilaughed. I meant no disrespect. Arundhati Roy (Algebra of infinite Justice)Are we different?No we are not different as far as the treatment meted ont to oustees from our large,medium or small mining projects is concerned. Of late the federation of mining industrieshas shown great resentment against recent amendment in land Acquisiton Act and miningbill 2011, expecting mining fraternity to tow the line. How the profits churned out fromthe mineral industry are shared out, is a matter to be decided by the government of timeand the owners of the properties and there is hardly and role for the corps of miningengineers. As the engineering divisions are concerned their sole aim should be to run theindustry in an efficient and enterprising spirit, complying with all the statute provisionsand generating a larger and larger surplus. Disposal of these surpluses is a privilegeddiscretion on the part of owners, and as far as managers or mining engineers areconcerned, they should channelise their efforts to get sufficient funds for floating the set-up at its best efficiency and at competitive environment. Introduction of latesttechnological advances have brought down overall manpower requirements and boostedup production levels in turn demand for more and more land resulted. This situation hasfurther complicated the rehabilitation status of project affected persons to a large extent.Offloading operational activities to third party contractual workings is another dimensionof the problem.India is endowed with significant mineral resources and produce 89 minerals out ofwhich 4 are fuel minerals, 11 metallic, 52 non metallic and 22 minor minerals. The totalvalue of minerals other than petroleum during year 2000-2001 was Rs. 3,06,751 million. 1
  2. 2. Today country ranks third in world’s coal production, fourth in iron ore, fifth in Bauxiteand lime stone.Spiraling up demand of industrial minerals and coal did a radical change in the miningoperational strategy. Introduction of latest technology and large size earthmovingequipments made it possible to adopt open surface mining technique for comparativelyhigh stripping ratio deposits which were so far amenable through conventionalunderground mining techniques. Higher size of capital investments and higher productionlevels converged into mega size operational level putting up extraordinary pressure overneighboring resources. The other important aspect of this transformation was to sharesome of the critical activities through outsourcing to third party contractual agencies.When entire large mining operations shooted up, it was simply not possible that theirJuniors in the minor mineral mining segments remain insulated from the fruits of latesttechnology up gradation. The small mines so far depended upon mannal resources,opened their operations to latest available versatile hydraulic excavators, tippers,hydraulic operated dumpers and drills etc. Finance and skill was not a problem, thanks tothe financers and equipment suppliers, who were readily available at door steps.Our mineral resources are sufficiently rich and varied to provide the country with strongindustrial base. We have rich deposits of metallic minerals of ferrous group such as ironore, Manganese, chromites and Titanium. World’s largest reserves of Mica and Bauxiteare located in our country. The situation is more or less satisfactory in Coal, Felspar,Fluoride, Limestone, Dolomite and Gypsum. Some of the non ferrous metallic mineralsespecially Copper, Lead, Zinc, Tin, Graphite are less than adequate.The latest level of coal reserves in the country is about 2,01,95,370 million tonnes. Thequality of coal is inferior and our current production level of 292 million tonnes perannum has grown up ten times from the 32.8 million tonnes level in year 1950-51Country has good quality iron ore reserves to the tune of 12,749 million tones, which isalmost 20 percent of world’s total iron ore reserve. The current production level of 64.1million tonnes per annum of iron ore in country is about 20 times of 3.0 million tonneslevel of 1950-51The reserves of some of the important minerals in the country are given as under –Minerals Reserves in Million TonnesManganese 430Bauxite 3,290Lime Stone 1,75,345Dolomite 7,533Gypsum 1,237Mica 0.400Uranium 0.030Rock Phosphate 24.2Graphite 168.77Chromites 203 2
  3. 3. As earlier stated the introduction of latest technology in mining sector has catapulted theconventional mining to the arena of large open cast mining activities. This has multipliedthe material handling to a substantive scale at one hand and proportional rise in surfaceland requirements. The new scenario depended upon a few highly skilled key personscurtailing employment opportunities to a large extent. Another dimension of this changehas been reflected in the offloading of major activities to contractual agencies. This ismore and more acceptable trend in today’s mining industry. While the managements mayinsulate themselves from the working environment created and maintained by thesecontractual agencies, who are solely behind profit making motos, the overall employmentenvironment is nauseating.Deployment of high capacity equipments has resulted into phenomenal change in wastegeneration demanding more and more land for waste disposal. In addition to swallowinga large chunk of prime agricultural land every year these ever expanding dumps becomethe source for silting the surface drainage system and blanketing peripheral crops landwith sterilized non life supporting particulate matter. The size of these huge dumps alsoaffect the photosynthesis process within their shadow areas affecting crops output.Other important change which has affected the operational side of the mining of the socalled minor minerals. The primary, manually operated mining of minor minerals havebecome a star mining with quantum leap into mechanized or semimechanized operationallevels. Mining of building stones, marble, sand stone etc. and running crushers havebecome mechanized operations with the old conventional management thinking to milkthe cows for the last drop without putting forward any fodder. This change over hascreated multiple problems including environmental disasters.The owners of these quarries want to enjoy the benefits of erstwhile small leveloperations at one hand and expanded the activities with no restriction throughmechanization, over loading and commersurating heavy blasts. They do not want to sharethe responsibilities associated with increased level of operational activities. Inflow oflarge profits, unethical practices have supported extensive illegal mining, where paymentof royalty and other govt. taxes are also siphoned out conveniently. Since these practiceshave scanty regard for the law of land, the waste generated in the process is dumped outon govt. lands, pasture lands or cheaply purchased agricultural lands. There are multiplecases where the waste is dumped into life line streams, perennial water holes or rivers.indiscreetly.Assuming their primitive level activities no discretion is paid at the time of leaseallotments, and most of them become very close to small residential villages or towns. Attheir initial stage no body is alarmed, but in course of time profit hunting makes themlarger units availing mechanization, heavy blasts and all the time screaming crushersspreading highly dusty atmosphere all around. The conflict between the residents andmine operators become a routine affair where the guardians of law are found to bestanding with mine owners. Gold rush into this sector has ultimately invited local andstate level politicians to bake their cakes, and this has slackened the feeble grip retained 3
  4. 4. by the state govt. officials, so far. These political intrusions made all the unethicalpractices simple including overloading of tractors, trucks, spilling the activities beyondthe earmarked areas, theft of royalty and other govt. taxes, by passing environmental andmine regulations. They developed strange trade mark practices to by pass theenvironmental and safe mining practices, for example in Rajasthan the lease area forminor minerals was brought down from earlier 5.0 Ha. so that the quarry owners can besaved from environmental obligations. I do not have any hesitation to state that the stategovt officials were made silent spectators to watch this nexus growing into mafiafiefdoms. The interests are so deep and strong that these owners had courage to attacksenior police officials and other govt. enforcing agencies. These mechanized operationsdo not want to appoint statutory officials, a possible point of leakage in their frame ofthinking. This sector is definitely bringing a bad name for mining as a whole. There is arecent case which was prominently reported in national media – A marble quarry minedout the mineral beneath an important railway line without notice of any authority. Does itnot make us laughing stock to any Tom, Dick and Harry. (I came across a news andphotograph in a Hindi newspaper, where a local mine in Sikar district has dumped wasteinto a village school building and closed it from all sides)Nature has great power of resilience and adopts with the changes forced upon it fromtime to time. However it needs time to accommodate these changes for a new changedversion of equilibrium. Increased speed of land transformations do not leave it margin tofollow the fast advancing human actions and the widening gape results into failures ofserious nature releasing unadjusted energy. Fast land transformation activities shouldhave sound planning and a closely monitoring strategy. Unfortunately this monitoringpart in our high fast progressing land transformation projects lack much in comparasionto similar projects in advanced countries. For example in US steel mines a constant watchon accumulated stresses, vibration levels at the time of blasting with the help of geo-phones is maintained and analysed for possible anamolies and their possible resultantactions forecasting.Capital intensive activities depend upon a few highly skilled professionals and artisanspaid luxuriantly, while the erstwhile land owners over whose acquired properties theedifice of these activities have been built up get paltry wages and menial jobs inexchange. It is a classic example of mushroom type development structure, where a tallglamorous building stands surrounded all around by the unlivable slums. Some of theseerstwhile land owners compromised with the transformations as god willing dictate, butthe greater group failed to reconciles leading into socio-cultural never ending depressivetraps. Excessive dependence on alcohol was a common remedy for the desolates to dilutetheir isolation and to come out of draconian nightmares. They were masters of their fate,transformed into slaves to sing other’s songs.Barring a few names most of the surface mining projects paid little attention and value toconserve and preserve soil and sub soil scattered over the mining property. It is needlessto say about the value of the top soil. Nature takes a great length of time in manufacturingthe soil, blending its constituents like organic matter, humous and rock particulates inright proportions; which reflects upon its value. Introduction of contractual workings and 4
  5. 5. medium to small mining sector operations hardly realize the importance and adoptedpractices to mine the soils along with other waste profiles and dumped in mixedformations.Mining and its subsequent activities have found to degrade the land to a significantextent. Overburden removal from mining areas results in a very significant loss of richtop soil which retains physical, chemical and biological forms to sustain life. The biggerthe scale of mining operation, greater is the quantum of waste generation. As per oneestimate an area of 13,546 Ha land was brought under actual mining during 2005-06, thetotal area affected was far much more (see table)Mineral Production, Waste generation and land affected in 2005-06S.No. Mineral Production M.T. Overburden MT Estimated Land affected Ha.1 Coal 407 1,493 10,1752 Lime Stone 170.38 178.30 1,7043 Bauxite 12.34 7.5 1234 Iron 154.40 143.90 1,5445 Other 9.44 18.61 ---Surface mining industry is farmers nightmare primarily affecting water flow in local area.It changes hydrological profile of an area by degrading catchments, affecting bothquantity and quality of water. It increases run-offs during monsoons and pollutes riversand streams. The irrigation dams loose their capacity due to fast silting.Soil is lost in two ways i.e. part removed in the process of mining and casted away alongwith overburden in the waste dumps. The other part is buried alive under the wastedumps, not to appear again. Both are permanent losses. However these losses can bereduced if not eliminated totally with certain regulatory mechanism equipped witheffective monitoring systems.Mining projects at large have adopted afforestation technique as the back stay for minedout area reclamation. While large mining projects adopt tree plantation over the waste –dumps, small and medium size activities hardly care about this aspect. A stable forestrydepends upon its compatibility with local climatic factors, presence of inter – relatedspecies and regeneration capabilities. Nature favours establishment of climatic climaxspecies and in course of setting it show preferences towards the allied species closelyrelated to principals climax species. It is a bread and butter relationship for growth. Thelitter coming from allied species become the relished food for main species and vice –versa. Any man made forestry can not be assumed to be a stable and mature forestry untiland unless it starts regeneration on its own and honors intergeneration and honors itscapabilities on sustained considerations. The exotice and fast growing species normalyadopted in the plantation programmes can not be said stable as they will survive tillhuman care is extended. They lack regenerative capabilities. Some of the central Indianmines adopted fast growing species like Gravellia Pterdifolia, Gravellia Robusta, Acacia. 5
  6. 6. Auricul-formis for their reclamation programmes in eighties. The mined out areasremained completely green during the operational cycle of the mines but become totaldenuded and deserted landscapes, once the operations ceased off. It is not sufficient toplant some trees but important is to ensure the mind out areas into vibrating selfgenerating forestry.When we discuss afforestation, we should also think of wild life affected due to miningoperations. We should not skip over the fact that every eco-zone is built up with a chaininterlinked with a number of species, loss of any link causes severe trophic losses, thoughnature provides some initial cushioning. I would like to give a living example. WildTuskers in Chhatisgarh state had a harmonic movement from Palamau in Jharkhand stateto Surguja in Chhatisgarh (In fact all the animal kingdome and primitive men move in asimple harmonic cycle- all through their life examples are Monarch Butterflies, Solomonand Herd people moving from plateu tops to the banks of rivers flowing in the valley andback to the plateu tops as per seasonal variations) Some of them or their earlier were bornin the zangels of Sarguja and the compatible forest corridors permitted their movementup to Palamau without any external interruption. These wild elephants enjoyed theharmonical movement within this corridor without any interruption, till vedanta’sappeared on the scene.To facilitate transportation of bauxite ore from their Mainpat mine to Korba plant, theyheavily depended upon truck transportation – As a result less trafficked road joiningAmbikapur town to Korba via Pathal gaon and Dharamjaigarh became highly populatedroad all of sudden accommodating movement of loaded or empty truck in every 10 to 15minutes frequency. To curtail lead, some important alterations were also made in theroute. This transformation it self was enough to provoke tuskers, who killed seventy twotribals in a number of encounters, till they were injected anaesthetic drugs and coweddown and packed as prisoners to Bandhavgarh wild life sanctuary to carry tourists ontheir backs. This is not the end of this story. This men and animal conflict is not comingto closure and human intervention in the animal realm is taking lives of poor tribals everyyear.There is an unanimous thinking that the mining brings all those activities that are againstthe interests of protecting wild life. Waste is dumped, roads are cut opening up fragileeco systems for human intrusion. Large scale human settlements are set up in forests forlabour force and other staff, which fragments and degrades habitats. Pipe line and electriclines are imperative to break continuous tree canopies for several Kilometers restrictingtree dwelling species and fragments the ecosystems further. Marble mining in and aroundSariska wild life sanctuary has eliminated tiger population in totality. Salt mining in Rannof Katch has put the only remaining population of wild life in peril. Diamond mining inPanna has removed Tigers from Panna National Park. Lime stone mining in Gir Zangleshave threatened the only habitat of Asiatic lion. This is an unending story.Mining industry did not stay at the threshold forests and wild life but furthered its pangsto suffocate voiceless tribals in Orrisa. Our activities in Lanjigarh has decided the future 6
  7. 7. course of this industry in the specific areas of ecological balancing, respect of the forestryand wild life.It is a fact that today disruptive movements like Naxilitic were originally centered on theagricultural land distribution policies, and became feeble in course of time. Its revival andfurther nourishment came from the mining industry and forestry. Today these movementsare successfully operated in the dense zangles surrounding mining theaters. It is not asimple co-incidence. The discriminating gulf between haves owning mining progects andhave nots on whose land, soil and water the large edifice of such projects are built,ultimately worked as a catalyst in this smoldering fire.The expanding influence of the ideology of violence being perpetrated by Naxiliticgroups in various parts of the country is being traced to a variety of socioeconomicfactors and illegal mining. It has been realized that the illegal mining has not only createdenvironmental havoc but has been a major factor behind the alienation of tribals. Naxalgroups took advantage of this situation and recruited ideologically motivated youth andilliterate and poverty stricken tribals who became their main stay in course of time.It will be very much relevant to discuss a few points raised by the international labourorganization in their recent report “India and the Rights of Indigenous people”. ILO statesthat the minerals found in tribal areas contribute to more than half of national miningproduction. Yet mining policies in India has overlooked the existence of tribalcommunities and constitutional provisions for the protection of their land and resources,report notes. (In 1991 out of total 4175 mines in country 3500 mines were in tribal areas)Naxilites in their charter has been raising the issues of tribals and Justified their actionsagainst the continued isolation and exploitation of tribals and their homelands, failure toimplement the 5th and 6th schedules under article 244 of the Indian Constitution.Now listen from horse mouth –“How much of a nightmare we have to become to the reactionary ruling classes of India.On the name of development. On the name of development, Industrializaiton and miningtribals have been displaced left to die slow death.” M. Ganapathis General Secretary C.P.I. (Maoist) reported in media.Another important area where our contribution is significant. Jack hammer drilling oreven medium size drilling carried out in quarries and mines is dry drilling releasingenormous quantity of dust in the atmosphere. Drillers prefer because dry drillingfacilitates & high percolation rate reducing his time to complete the given assignment atthe same time management saves the cost of additional accessories and increase bit lite.This is the sketch of the responsible mining establishments.While the so called minor minerals mining does not have faith in wet drilling or any dustsuppression techniques. Crushers attached with stone quarries are discharging silica ladendust in the atmosphere affecting the workers as well as people residing in the nearby 7
  8. 8. areas. It proper medical survey is conducted, a large section of miners will be foundsuffering from occupational diseases of different levels. A recent report appeared in thenational media indicating alarmingly high incidences of silicosis in the mining areas. Thereport has been brought up by the National human rights commission. This picture isonly for the workers working in the quarries, people at large living close by to thesecrushers or mining areas have to live with the dusty atmosphere without any inclusion inthe survey modalities. Incidently tuberculosis developed due to silicosis is TRD (TotalDrug Resistant) and happy go marry rounds of recruitments in critical Drilling andcrushing type mining works are overtime running factory for tuberculosis and relatednondurable diseases.The huge blasts taken to cater the ever increasing demand of industries affect rechargingof ground aquifers, as the aquaducts transmitting water from surface are distorted.Surface water drainage pattern is changed, the nallas and streams draining clean waterflow earlier, now carry slime and toxicants. Agricultural fields surrounding mining areasare losing their fertility and productivity.At our best side we are better known as throat cutters of poor tribals and on the lower sideas mining mafia people. When this industry is so dependent on the people and affectingcovertly or overtly their land, water, air, their food and health, why they are pained somuch as to extend a small portion of their surplus to the people who make theirfoundation pillars. This loot of natural resources in our country is so cheap andmanageable that all the foreign interests and non resident Indians are camping throughout blowing hot and cold. No where in the world, the open robbery of national assets andnatural resources is so cheap and easy as it is in our country, that is the reason thesuccessful industrialists from all over the world are keeping constant eyes on our mineraldeposits.According to a report between 1950 and 1991 at least 26,00,000 people were displacedby mining projects, out of which only 25 percent received any resettlement. Amongdisplaced 52 percent belonged to tribal status. As stated earlier the tribal areas are rich inminerals, it is the tribal people who are most affected. Industrialization of such areas hasbadly shattered their economy, values and life style. In one of the important ruling of thecountry’s apex court, it was made clear that natural resources are national assets and localcommunities enjoy entitlements. If not full, a part ownership on them.Should we not pay for this part ownership. A. Hussain 8

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