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. A Padma Awardee scientist Prof. Dr. P K Jena, had formulated an integrated development of mine areas named as “MAHA” (Mines – Minerals And Habitat) to bring about various developments of the mines while protecting its environment and making it productive even after completion of the mining operation.
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 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. Back filling the mine areas and keeping the mined areas productive are seldom carried out.
Mines’ scam in almost all mineral rich states of India, is rampant. As a consequence of this, both the states and centre loose 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 completion of mining.
It may be mentioned here that, the author after visiting a large number of mining areas in Odisha and other parts of India, in early 1980s formulated an integrated development of mine areas named as “MAHA” (Mines – Minerals And Habitat) to bring about various developments of the mines while protecting its environment and making it productive even after completion of the mining operation. In this project, it was envisaged to adopt best available technology for implementing the followings;
- Framing a better mine plan for cutting out minimum amounts of forests, avoiding the destruction of the existing water bodies and mining both high and low grade minerals in a scientific manner;
- Managing the over burden and preserving the top soil for future reforestation programme on the over burden as well as the barren lands in the area;
- Upgrading the low and off grade ores and agglomerating ore fines as well as beneficiated products of low grade ores at the mine site;
- Utilizing the mine wastes for construction of mine roads, low cost houses, development of township for the employees in the mine areas etc;
- Preserving existing water bodies and under taking rain water harvesting in the ground as well as in the mine pits for utilization in mineral processing, agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing and domestic purposes;
- Undertaking afforestation through plantation of fast growing, oil seed producing and other commercial trees like bamboo, teak, sal etc. on the over burdens as well as in the nearby deforested lands;
- Executing health, educational and other socio-economical programmes particularly for the affected people in the area, organizing skill development and motivating them to participate in the mining and allied programmes for leading a better socio-economic life.
The author and scientists undertook the “MAHA” programme at two typical mines as the model demonstration. The two projects one at the South Kaliapani Chromite mines, Jajpur district, Orissa owned by the Orissa Mining Corporation, Government of Orissa, and the other at the foot hills of the Himalayan region at Lambidhar Lime stone mine near Mussoorie, Uttarkhand, belonging to the State Mineral Development Corporation, were undertaken up early 1980s. The above programmes were implemented by involving experts in the respective areas. Both the mine owners were highly satisfied with the possible benefits to be derived through adoptions of MAHA project, but unfortunately these projects were not followed up. Even at present, though the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF), Government of India insists in implementing such programmes, the real implementation is far from the “MAHA” programme in most of the mines. The mine owners should realize that, by implementing integrated development programmes in the mine areas they as well as the government and the people in the region will benefit equally and the mining activities would go on smoothly while keeping the environment clean.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for mining companies, is a positive move towards greater sustainability in the industry i.e. the practical implementation of the goals of sustainability. The CSR is a means by which companies can frame their attitudes and strategies towards, and relationships with stakeholders, be they investors, employees, communities, within a popular and acceptable concept. In the mining industry, progress within the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, environmental and social), could be achieved through economic development, investment of generated revenues to ensure the future development and long-term livelihood of the communities. Environmental protection, minimizing the environmental impact of natural resource exploitation and land rehabilitated to allow successive use and social cohesion, reducing the social and cultural disruption to communities, maintenance of stakeholder dialogue and transparency of operation should be given due priority.
Sustainable development requires net and equitable benefits, and the building of social capacity for the affected communities that continue throughout and beyond the closure of the mine and a company’s CSR programme should address this. Community involvement initiatives that mining companies may employ include:
- Infrastructure improvements – for example, building access roads, community buildings and schools.
- Community Health Initiatives – offering health services to employees and their families, and building and equipping hospitals and health centers for communities.
- Community foundations – a fund generated by the company that is used for social investment purposes, these can also attract interest from external donors.
- Supporting small local businesses – preferential procurement policies for local suppliers.
- Sustainable livelihood projects – the purpose of these is to reduce the communities’ economic dependence on the mine, and develop alternative and sustainable employment opportunities for stakeholder communities.
- Micro-credit finance schemes – these loans can be used to launch new enterprises, create jobs, and help economy to flourish. With access to credit, families can invest according to their own priorities; for example school fees, health care, nutrition, or housing,. Micro-credit schemes can offer opportunities to the most disadvantaged groups in communities.
In order to make the mining of minerals sustainable, the implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme is very important for the mine owners, the community and also the government. In planning and implementing the CSR programmes, all the stakeholders should be involved from the very beginning and there should be transparency at every stage. The mine owners should frame attractive CSR programmes for effective utilization of the resources as well as to protect the environment and the interest of the stakeholders. This will go a long way in helping the country to effect rapid socio economic development.
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, the environment management plan and other related programmes 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 with CSR programmes will bring sustainable development.