By Prof. Dr. P. K. Jena in Bhubaneswar, July 15, 2019: The mineral resources are most vital for industrial and hence socio economic development of the country. These are the principal raw materials for most of the heavy and essential industries like thermal power plant, iron and steel, aluminium, copper, lead, zinc etc. Further, the mineral resources unlike other natural resources are non-replenishable in nature.

Therefore, these have to be properly mined, processed and utilized with zero waste approach. In this connection, it may be mentioned here that, till now, most of the mines in different mineral rich states of India, are being leased out and the lease holders practically mine most of the rich minerals leaving behind the low grade ones which are much more in quantity compared to the high grade minerals. In due course these left out low grade minerals ultimately get lost along with the over burden at the mine sites. Further, most of the mining companies use backdated technology resulting in loss of large amounts of resources along with causing a lot of noise and dust pollution in the area.

Mining scam in almost all mineral rich states of India is rampant. As a consequence of this, both the states and centre huge revenue, the local people live in polluted environment and harassed in various ways, large amounts of forests and water bodies get destroyed, and a lot of low grade minerals get lost along with the over burden. Thus, the mining companies through illegal mining benefit at the cost of all these and leave the area in a devastated state.

Therefore, the recent decision of the government of India to auction the mines should give an opportunity to handover the mines to technically more advanced and experienced mining companies. In this process, it should be seen that, all acceptable grades of minerals are mined, and the low grade ones are upgraded and then sold preferably to the domestic industries. In addition to this, the conditions provided in the auction should compel the auction holders to keep the area environment friendly by protecting other valuable resources like forest, water, soil etc., as well as back filling the mined areas and harvesting rain water in the remaining mine pits to make the mine area productive and habitable.

Prior to mining, it is essential to properly evaluate the reserves of various grades of minerals at different localities along with forest and water resources. The mine plan should be carefully framed before auctioning the mine. The mine plan should contain the estimated quantities of various grades of minerals to be mined, the location and process for up grading the low grade minerals, steps to be taken to protect the forest and water resources, back filling the mine areas by the over burden and top soil after mining, under taking rain water harvesting in the mine pits, rehabilitating the local people including provision for employment, and protection of the environment in general.

By auctioning the mines with proper plan for resource development and implementing those strictly, all the stake holders including the governments would benefit. The Industry will prosper, minerals will be conserved and the mine areas would be productive and habitable even after mining.

It may be mentioned here that, about 35 years back, an integrated mine area development programme for achieving all the benefits mentioned above has been framed by me. The concerned experts under my leadership have demonstrated the programme at a chromite mine at Kaliapani, Sukinda, Odisha, and a lime stone mine at Lambidhar in Utarakhand. The success of the programme at both the sites was very much appreciated by the respective state governments and the Government of India. However, this integrated mine area development programme was not taken up seriously by the mine owners.

In order to make the mineral mining most effective, a high power committee representing all stakeholders should be formed for the mines in the region and the committee should inspect time to time the functioning of the mines, keeping in view the mining and environment management plan recommended by the government. Strict action should be taken if the mine plan is not followed seriously. As mining is hazardous in nature, each mine or a group of small mines should have a Disaster Management Cell to safeguard the working condition and safety of the workers in the mine and local people living in the area. In this way the environment friendly mining of minerals will bring sustainable development.

(Former Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, India)

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