Committee meets to reassess complete mining ban in Jharkhand district

Saranda, Chaibasa in Jharkhand had large reserves of iron ore, wrote Jharkhand's chief secretary

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Thursday 19 March 2020
The periphery of Saranda has turned red due to the existing iron ore mines Photo: Sayantan Bera
The periphery of Saranda has turned red due to the existing iron ore mines Photo: Sayantan Bera The periphery of Saranda has turned red due to the existing iron ore mines Photo: Sayantan Bera

A committee set up by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to reassess mining regulations contained in the ‘Management Plan for Sustainable Mining (MPSM) in Saranda and Chaibasa in Singhbhum district, Jharkhand’, met for the first time on January 16, 2020.

Down To Earth has access to the minutes of the meeting.

Saranda and Chaibasa — in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district — had large iron ore reserves, DK Tiwari, the state’s Chief Secretary, wrote in a letter to the MoEFCC on March 2019.

The letter contained a request to ‘revisit’ the Management Plan for Sustainable Mining (MPSM), which regulates mining in Chaibasa and the Saranda Sal forest area.

The Saranda forest — the biggest Sal forest in Asia — was once a hotbed of leftwing extremism. After evidence of illegal mining in the area was found by the Shah Commission in 2014, the need to draw up a plan for sustainable mining was felt.

This led to the formulation of the MPSM.

“The conservation zone is a repository to huge iron ore resources and so the stipulation in the MSPM report for complete ban on mining in conservation zone should be revisited,” Tiwari wrote in a letter to CK Mishra, secretary at MoEFCC.

The union ministry accepted the state’s request on July 11, 2019 and asked the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) to conduct a study to reassess or modify MPSM.

The committee to reassess the ban was formed soon after the chief secretary wrote to the ministry to open up the conservation zone for mining.

The committee’s focus was on forest patches in the conservation zone that could be utilised for mining operations.

It also recommended a re-digitisation exercise of the forest areas — especially in mineralised zones — and a verification of boundaries by the Jharkhand government.

“The mining, if suggested to be permitted in miscellaneous forest patches falling under MPSM designated conservation zone, shall be subject to stringent terms and conditions,” the minutes said.

ICFRE recommended conducting the study over a period of three seasons. The Jharkhand Mines and Geology Department, however, sought an early completion of the study, according to the minutes.

The committee also proposed for the following to be included in the MPSM:

  • establishment of iron ore beneficiation plant
  • a legal proposal for declaration of MPSM-designated Conservation Zones as Conservation Areas
  • guidelines for use of District Mineral Fund (DMF) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for the benefits of affected people
  • institutional mechanism for monitoring and evaluation of mining and rehabilitation activities at central and stat government level
  • carrying out comprehensive zonation of mineral bearing areas and preparation of master plan for mineralised zone for systematic mining as amendment /modification in MPSM

The committee also finalised its terms of reference and sent it to MoEFCC for final approval.

The terms of referene include an evaluation of iron ore and its economic value in Saranda forest, a study of International cases of mining in biodiversity-rich areas and a mapping of elephant corridors.

Mining as a source of employment for the local population and revenue to the state, were also added to the committee’s terms.

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