Illegal Mining Amounts to Plundering the Nation’s Treasure

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Prof. Dr. P. K. Jena 
Minerals which are mined from the earth crust are highly precious and play the most significant role in our industrialization and hence socio economic developments.  The mineral producing countries in the world are carrying out extensive mining to supply the increasing demand of various types of minerals which are the main raw materials of the thermal power plants, integrated iron and steel, aluminium and other non ferrous metal industries, chemicals, refractories and cement manufacturing units. Unfortunately, most of the mining industries in India are not carrying out the mining of minerals in a scientific and environment friendly manner. As a result, along with wastage of large amounts of these non renewable resources, a lot of forests are destroyed, water resources are highly damaged and polluted; further, the very valuable top soil is wasted and the mine atmosphere gets highly polluted. In addition to these, in India there is no proper mine closing practice after completion of mining due to which the site remains hazardous with very limited opportunity for rehabilitation and post mine land use development.
In addition to these, illegal mining in India particularly in mineral rich states like Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh etc., is rampant. A lot of illegal mining is taking place since long and these unscrupulous mine owners are extracting mostly the high grade ones leaving behind large amounts of minerals in the fine form as well as the low grade ones and allowing these to get diluted with the overburden materials. Thus, these get lost forever. As mining is not a short period operation, the illegal mining is taking place in broad day light for months and years together with large number of workers, machines, lights etc and cutting down the trees and replacing the people living in the area. It is beyond our imagination how mining is taking place illegally in front of the authorities for years together? Is there no supervision by the authorities?
This unpardonable crime has to be stopped completely with immediate intervention by the Central Government Authorities. Those who are involved in illegal mining and permitting these should be penalized heavily. The great crime is that, they have illegally extracted from the mines, the non renewable and most valuable resources of the country by paying a very little fraction of their value.

In recent years, all over the world such dirty and illegal mining practices have been completely eliminated by the authorities. In countries like South Africa, Australia, Canada, USA, etc., which are mineral rich ones, a lot of efforts are being made to apply better technology to carry out mining in an environment friendly manner to harness all grades of minerals with least wastage while protecting other natural resources like forest, water, top soils etc., implementing mine closer plan and in general keeping the environment clean.
In view of this, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) formed in October 2001, has set the following ten sustainable development principles for mining of minerals.
1) Implement and maintain ethical business practices and sound systems of corporate governance;2) Integrate sustainable development considerations within the corporate decision making process;3) Uphold fundamental human rights and respect cultures, customs and values in dealings with employees and others who are affected by the activities;4) Implement risk management strategies based on valid data and sound science;5) Seek continual improvement of  health and safety performance;6) Seek continual improvement of environmental performance;7) Contribute to conservation of biodiversity and integrated approaches to land use planning;8) Facilitate and encourage responsible product design, use, re-use, recycling and disposal of the products;9) Contribute to the social, economic and institutional development of the concerned communities and10) Implement effective and transparent engagement, communication and independently verified reporting arrangements with the stakeholders.
Taking in to consideration the above principles, the ‘Green Mining’ should be carried out with the objective to integrate economic activities through consuming and producing minerals with adoption of environmental friendly better technology, giving due importance to the welfare of the workers and people in the area and making the area equally productive even after mining. In order to make mining economically and environmentally sustainable, the management strategies and technologies are to be suitably developed and applied by reducing inputs like water and energy with least land disruption. Similarly, it is necessary to reduce the output like wastes and destruction of forest and water bodies.
In 1980s, as the Director of the Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (IMMT), Bhubaneswar, under the ages of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India, I planned and started an integrated mining and mine area development project named “MAHA” (Mines –Minerals and Habitat) in a chromite mine at Sukinda, Odisha and subsequently in a Lime Stone mine near Mussoorie, Uttarkahand. The idea of this project was to demonstrate the environment friendly mining practices using the best available technology with the objectives to harness both high and low grade minerals with least loss of these non renewable resources, beneficiation and agglomeration of the low grade minerals, proper utilization of the mine wastes including the fines and tailings, implementation of planned backfilling of the mines with the wastes, constructing mine roads and low cost houses for the local people and workers using mine wastes, preserving the water bodies and undertaking rain water harvesting in the mine pits as well as recharging the ground water, afforestation of the barren land using top soil for growing oil seed producing and other commercial trees and executing various socio economic programmes for the mine workers as well as the local community. With the success of this demonstration project, the mine owners were requested to carry out such programme in their mines. But, so far very little has been done by most of the mine owners in India.
It is suggested that, in addition to stopping illegal mining immediately, the authorities should implement “Green Mining’ in each and every mines of India to harness the maximum amounts of mineral resources while taking care of other resources and making the areas productive even after mining for the sustainability of our industries and socio economic developments.

About Writer: Prof. Dr. P. K. Jena
(Former Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, India & First Distinguish Professor of Tata Char in Metallurgical Engineering, IIT, Kharagpur)ChairmanInstitute of Advance Technology & Environmental Studies (IATES) andPresident, Natural Resources Development Foundation (NRDF)80A – 81A, Lewis Road, Bhubaneswar – 751002,Email: [email protected]
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