New mineral policy pushes privatization at people's cost
India announced a new National Mineral Policy (for non-coal and non-fuel minerals) in early April, after two-and-a-half years of wrangling between mineral-rich states and the central government, between steel-makers, iron ore miners and exporters. The objective of this policy, nmp -2008, is clear it will promote privately-owned, large-scale, mechanized minesif they happen to be controlled by multinationals, still better. Lack of foreign direct investment (fdi) in the mining industry was the very reason the 1993 national mineral policy was revised. But the casualty of this exclusive focus on fdi is the env ironment and social issues. The policy treats them as hindrances, rather than an integral part of mining.
nmp -2008 ignores the fact that mining in India is not only about minerals and a simple dig and sell proposition, it is about tribals and backward castes and their land and livelihood alienation. It is about poverty, backwardness and Naxalism. It is also about deforestation and biodiversity impact, water security and pollution. A majority of Indias minerals lie beneath its forests. The top 50 mineral-bearing districts alone account for about one-fifth of the forest cover of the country. Some of the most dense and biologically rich forests are in these districts. These districts are also tribal-dominated and among the poorest in the country. Eighty per cent of these districts are affected by Naxalism. These districts are where some major rivers originate and flow through.
The new mineral policy not only sidelines most of these facts, but also paints a false picture of mining in the country. For instance, the policy believes that the miner will leave the mining area in a better ecological shape than he found it in. This is scientifically wrong and technologically impossible. Mining destroys biodiversity and the top soil and leaves behind a big water-filled void in the earth along with hill-sized waste dumps. Even when the policy states that reclamation and afforestation should proceed along with mineral extraction as far as possible, it does not make the concurrent efforts mandatory.
To promote mining, the policy has also made blatantly false statements. It states mineral development has made substantial contribution to the development of mining are as. This when 70 per cent of the top 50 mineral-producing districts are among the 150 most backward districts of the country even after decades of mining. Despite all the rhetoric about the employment potential of mining and tertiary sector spin-offs, the fact is that modern large-scale mining does not need local people. It needs local resourcesminerals, water, forests, land and existing infrastructure. It ends up alienating local livelihoods, but cannot replace them. This is the major point of conflict between miners and local communities across the mining belt of the country. Added to this is a huge trust gap between the mining industry and the government on one side and the community on the other.
The mining industry has poor rehabilitation and resettlement record. It is estimated that not even one-fourth of the people displaced by mining have been resettled. The result is that people in mineral-rich areas are not willing to give up their land for mining. In such an environment of acute discontent and distrust, the solution nmp -2008 offers is to follow the government resettlement and rehabilitation policy and to rely on corporate social responsibility (csr). It is just not going to work.In fact, with large-scale mining, one should expect large-scale social unrest in the countrys mining belt in the coming years.
As far as protection of the environment is concerned, nmp -2008 has essentially copied the prescriptions of the older policy. There is, however, a difference. nmp -2008 plans to mitigate the environmental and social fallouts of mining by relying on a voluntary mechanism, Sustainable Development Framework (sdf). It wants mining companies to voluntarily practise csr.
|Not even one fourth of those displaced have been resettled|
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