Mining explosives attract Maoists

By Arnab Pratim Dutta
Published: Tuesday 30 June 2009

Centre asks public sector units to look for alternative mining methods

THE Union government has a plan to protect mines in Chhattisgarh and Orissa from Maoist attacks: remove all explosives from mining sites operated by public sector companies.

Since Maoists target mines to loot explosives, the best way to protect the sites is to do away with the need to use explosives for mining, officials said at a recent meeting of the secretaries of home affairs and mining ministries.

The meeting was held in the wake of the Maoist attack on the bauxite mines at Damanjodi in Orissa on April 11. The rebels killed 11 paramilitary personnel and departed with 20 tonnes of explosives kept in the store.

Officials said they have asked mining companies for suggestions on alternative methods of mining."Finding alternatives to explosives is priority for both ministries as it would negate risks of Maoist attacks," said Shanta Sheela Nair, secretary, mines. She said mechanized heaving to remove the topsoil is one of the available alternatives. It is better than explosives as it does not damage the environment, said Nair.

Alternatives like mechanized heavy-duty rippers, used for heaving, and excavators are available, but they do not work well in bauxite mining areas in Orissa because of hard soil conditions, said a senior official of Indian Bureau of Mines in Bhubaneswar. Rippers are also expensive compared to explosives like ammonium nitrate or slurry-based blasting substances, he said.

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