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Removing Low-grade iron ore dumps from Goa in a Scientific Way –                    Will Lead to Safe MiningThe reddish hi...
existed anywhere between 20 and 40 years can only have a positive impact. Someof the benefits include reducing the extent ...
Removing Low-grade iron ore dumps from Goa in a Scientific Way – Will Lead to Safe Mining
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Removing Low-grade iron ore dumps from Goa in a Scientific Way – Will Lead to Safe Mining

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The article is an opinion piece by Mr. J.S. Sibal, former Director General of Mines Safety on how removal of low-grade iron ore dumps from Goa will help in safe mining

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Removing Low-grade iron ore dumps from Goa in a Scientific Way – Will Lead to Safe Mining

  1. 1. Removing Low-grade iron ore dumps from Goa in a Scientific Way – Will Lead to Safe MiningThe reddish hills dot large tracts on the goan landscape mounds of waste soil andother debris that have been left behind after iron ore was dug out from somemines. Accumulating since the 1960s, the dumps, as they are known, areestimated at 750 million tones and consists of top soil, mud and iron ore.With little having been done to clean them up in 50 years, the dumps are said topose a serious environmental hazard. But a technical point of view has been lostin the debate that has focused mainly on the political and social fallout of illegalmining. This missing link is critical.Traditionally, Goa has been home to low-grade in nature, and unsuitable fordomestic consumption. It has therefore commanded a far lower price in theinternational market for close to 50 years. Considering only the best quality ofore mined could be sold, there has been a growing stockpile of sub-grade ores,laterite and clay overburden, which has been accumulated for many years andwas lying unutilized due to ‘no economic value’ with no takers.Mines stacked such waste generally outside leasehold areas and sometimes closerto the pits, with due approvals as it was operationally unwise, unsafe, unlawful tostack it on ore bearing areas closer to pits.However, it is pertinent to note that the Chinese boom in mid-2000s, changed thewhole scenario where the demand of iron ore forced steelmakers there to findways to use low grade iron ore. This development brought a unique opportunityfor Goa mine owners.Low grade hematite ores in Goa can be used best when they are blended withhigh-grade magnetite concentrate. But that is not available in India, whereas it isavailable plenty in China. Naturally, mine owners in India scouted around to findbuyers for the otherwise-unusable stockpiles in their areas.This is the reason behind the current hue and cry on low-grade ore sales from thedumps. Financial benefits notwithstanding, removal of these dumps that have
  2. 2. existed anywhere between 20 and 40 years can only have a positive impact. Someof the benefits include reducing the extent of environmental damage, loweringthe need for additional dumping areas, accessibility to safe mining operations andfurthering the vision of zero-waste mining.It should be noted that the removal and economic use of old stockpiled wasteor low grade ore needs to be done till such time that the opportunity exists.Mining operations are governed by relevant safety laws and environmentclearance limits. Lease holders are required to plan mining operations in a way soas to ensure safe mining with due regards to conservation of available nationalresources. However it is necessary to ensure that there is no misappropriationand safe mining is carried out.Statutes and regulations should be applied and monitored rightly to facilitate safemining, with the scope for ensuring appropriate economic use of such low gradestockpiles in the interest of the industry, state and its people. It is thereforenecessary that existing low-grade ore dumps are re-handled, albeit with safety asan important parameter.Further Stockpiles should be removed in a scientific and safe manner and it mustbe ensured that such stockpiles do not cause additional environmental damage.Adequate infrastructure must be available for safe mining, processing andevacuation.With a broader perspective and effective regulations will lead to clarity,transparency, responsible mining and will ensure that there is no impact on theenvironment.By Mr. J S Sibal, (The author is former Director General of Mines Safety)

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