Experts from all over India and the world vote for cleaner mining options in the first ever world mining Congress
OVER 300 delegates including 23 overseas participants attended the first World Mining Environment Congress in New Delhi, held between December 11-14, organised by the Central Mining Research Institute (CMRI) at Dhanbad in Bihar.
The Congress culminated with a set of reccomendations, one each for the national and the international mining industry focussing on environmentally sound mining. The Congress also released the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Manual on the subject of rehabilitation of mining sites.
Although the overseas delegates presented papers on mining in their respective countries, the predominance of the Indian mining scene, somewhat diluted the international flavour of the Congress.
B B Dhar, chairman of the CMRI, while speaking to Down To Earth, said that the Congress mainly reflected success stories all over the Third World. "We have to focus on the success stories in the developing world. It is necessary to show the world that we too are a force to reckon with in mining," he said.
Majority of the delegates said that the Congress signified the coming of age of environmental awareness in mining, as far as India was concerned. "Every mine can be environmentally sound. It all depends on attitudes at the planning stage," said Tony McGill of the department of mines and energy, Darwin, Australia. "We follow the 'three mine' policy in Australia, where only three mines are allowed to operate in a territory, which contains environmental disbalances that arise out of mining," he added.
According to McGill, this policy also ensured that by the time mining began in a specific area, the local community was well aware of the project's profile.
"Newer managed mines are more scientifically managed than are the older ones inherited by the mining companies," added Dhar. He said that while it was difficult to repair some of the older ravaged mines, the recent trend was to ensure that once a project was completed, the mined-out area was not left in ruin.
P K Banerjee, director (technical) of the National Mineral Development Corporation, was of the opinion that by and large, big mining companies were not environment offenders.
A representative of a private mine owners association, speaking in confidence, stated that there were too many rules and regulations imposed on private mining companies. "The economies do not allow us to think of anything but extraction. If we are to spend any resources on repair, then a system of deffered payments for the leases must be introduced," he said.
Nathalie Rosin, editor of the journal, Mining, based in London, said environmentally correct mining was possible only for financially sound companies. "Tax incentives must be offered to companies when they spend money in repairing the environment. Regulations imposed on the industry should be simplified and made long-term, so that alterations are minimised. Also a maximum number of experts must be involved from the planning stage including botanists, so that endemic species can be regenerated after the mining operations are complete," she said.
Mark P Radka, coordinator, network for industrial environmental management, UNEP, opined that the shortage of trained personnel for mines and environment was the weakest point of this industry in southeast Asia. "We find most regulatory standards for mining in the developing world to be unrealistic. This attitude has to undergo a change," he emphasised.
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