MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Oxfam sponsored study suggests there is high incidence of illegal mining in Gujarat

Published by MAC on 2012-08-21
Source: Counterview online journal (2012-08-09)

For earlier discussion of India's proposed new mining legislation, see: India's new Mining Bill is an "outright assault on tribal communities"

Oxfam-sponsored study suggests there is high incidence of illegal mining in Gujarat

Counterview online journal

9 August 2012

A detailed report submitted to the Parliament's Standing Committee as a critique of the proposed Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill has made the startling revelation that 13.12 per cent of all illegal mining in India takes place in Gujarat.

Sponsored by top UK-based NGO Oxfam's India office, and prepared by R Sreedhar and Ravi Rebba Pragada of the Mines, Minerals and People Alliance, the report says that out of a total of 41,283 illegal mines identified by the Mines Ministry, in Gujarat alone a whopping 5,416 illegal mines exist, as against 1,125 legal leases given to entrepreneurs.

Only two states - Maharashtra (8,290) and Andhra Pradesh (11,591) - have a higher number of illegal mines than Gujarat. While the ministry gives figures of the area covered under legal mines (30,818 hectares in Gujarat), there is no official figure of area covered by illegal mining.

The report says that mining, both legal and illegal, is taking "large leaps with investments from different sources - national and international companies, private players, banks, equity funds and even round-tripping of illegal funds etc. - and it is now poised for almost doubling its current size in 15 years."

It regrets that "[t]he impacts are widespread and diverse and have created socio-economic and cultural impacts over different geographies and ecosystems - From Western Ghats to Stone Quarries of Rajasthan and from coal mines in Meghalaya to beach sands in Kerala. Even the constitutionally protected Scheduled Areas (Schedule V and VI) have not been spared of this blight where ironically, the mineral wealth of the country rests."

The report says: "The growing violence, violation of human and ecological rights and huge illegality associated with mining calls for serious consideration of the options. The mineral resources of our country need long-term strategies keeping in view the current levels of mineral exploitation and its consequences and the future needs and breakthroughs in technologies and processes."

It wants that the mining legislations should serve as the bedrock of stability of a very long term economy while other renewable resource options are brought into effective application. "Thus far the legislations instead of acknowledging and restoring the rights as well as working towards the welfare have caused more hardship to the communities."

The report wants that the the Samata Judgment in 1997 of the Supreme Court, which provided a semblance of hope for the tribal communities, should be implemented. The judgment wants that mining could no longer remain an economic activity to further profits of the few, oblivious of the local communities.

It has to seek consent of communities, directs governments to be an enabler of better development of the mining regions, make local communities partners in development of mines and allied activities and not to lease it away to companies.

The report says that: "Unfortunately never has any State or the Central Government sincerely enabled the implementation of this judgement in the past 15 years; on the contrary they have found ways to encourage corporates by undermining the judgment through a slew of administrative and legal fiats."

The report believes that an earlier draft of the Bill raised "a glimmer of hope", but the current Bill "negates the very core objective of reducing conflicts in mining regions and ensuring sustainable development of the communities.

The draft as circulated in June 2010 was comfortable with the 26% equity holding by the affected communities and subsequently diluted by the Empowered Group of Ministers and has been a severe let down for the community.

The report warns: "The huge areas that individual leases could have will rapidly enable acquisition of huge tracts of land under lease in mineral belts and itself could be the root cause for future mining scams.

"The original Mines and Minerals (Regulation & Development) Act 1957 enabled some form of a regulatory regime. Until the seventies there were very lfewe corollary laws that enabled regulation of impacts of mining.

"The current situation is significantly different especially with a number of environmental and forest legislations, the Constitutional Amendment empowering the local self-governments and its extension in Scheduled Areas (PESA), the expansion of the concerns on Human and Ecological rights through various national legislations and ecological conventions."

Suggesting that several of the loopholes which existed in the current Act i.e. MMDR Act 1957, have been raised in the current Bill, the report says: "A wider discussion with all stakeholders could have enabled a more just and acceptable draft. Only by making the rule making process extremely participative will produce fair and workable solutions.

"A careful incorporation of the fundamental demands made by the communities into the Act could ensure the scope for participation. Ultimately mechanisms to ensure justice to the affected communities and restore the ecosystems need to be addressed by this new law. We would seek opportunities to provide detailed inputs."

The report particularly refers to illegal mining, saying: "Given such a high proportion of illegality and the vast numbers, embedding ownership in the law would provide legal basis for the community to intervene in the case of illegal mines and to receive their share of benefits since they directly loose in the process. A company or a person or an investor investing in mining is doing so for profit. The penalties mentioned in the new drafts are too low."

It adds, "As seen from several investigations in the past few years of the nature and extent of illegal mining and loss of the public money this needs to be significantly revised upwards. The penalties to be charged should be based on the environmental and natural resources loss and compounded to discourage unlawful mining or contravention of the provisions of the Act."

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