MAC: Mines and Communities

Uma questions diamond mining by Rio Tinto in Bundelkhand

Published by MAC on 2013-12-10
Source: Times News Network (2013-12-06)

For background see the Nostromo Research April 2013 report "Rio in Bunderland - diamonds or dust?"

Uma questions diamond mining by Rio Tinto in Bundelkhand

Times News Network

6 December 2013

BHOPAL: A day after exit polls foretold BJP victory in Madhya Pradesh, the party's national vice-president Uma Bharati declared it was time to "speak to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan about illegal mining of diamonds by British mining major Rio Tinto" in Bundelkhand.

So far, Congress had alleged illegal diamond mining from Chhattarpur district by Rio-Tinto which signed a state-support agreement with the Chouhan government in October 2010. The company still does not have the required mining lease from the Union ministry of mines.

"Now we are sure BJP is coming to power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh, I will personally talk to chief minister Chouhan about rampant, unaccounted for diamond mining from Bundelkhand areas and illegal sand mining on Narmada banks," Uma Bharati told reporters.

"Rio Tinto digs up raw diamonds, carries it to helicopters and flies it away. This was a black-listed company when I was Union minister for mining. I would not even invite them to join the meetings with mining companies," Bharati said. "It is a dichotomy that the region from where a foreign company takes away our diamonds is the same place where a father hacked his three children to death because he could not feed them," she said.

Bharati compared the diamond mining in Chhattarpur and Panna to the mining of blue sapphires and rubies in the most backward and poor district of Orissa - Kalahandi, Koraput and Bolangir. "People here die of hunger and foreign companies walk away with riches beneath the earth," said Bharati. "This is the kind of discrimination that breeds Maoism and red terror."

Congress was fast to react to Bharati's statement against illegal mining. Congress senior leader Ajay Singh retorted: "Uma Bharati should have spoken up before the assembly elections. These are the same accusations we have been making over the past three years. What made her take so much time?''

State Congress leaders explained that in 2007, Rio Tinto was given a permission to conduct survey at the Buxwaha tehsil in Chhatarpur district to collect information about availability of diamonds in the area. This permission was given only till October 2010 but Rio Tinto started mining diamonds and continues to do so.

Bharati argued the state should at least work out a method by which locals in Bundelkhand area benefit from the mining. "It is a major mineral and if the mining was being conducted by a government undertaking, I would be assured that profits are going to the country. But here is a private company that is taking all profits home while Bundelkhand continues to remain one of the most backward areas of the nation. At least an agreement should be made like in the energy sector where the state gets 12 per cent of the power produced from a hydro-power project. A slice of that profit from diamonds should be taken by the state to develop the Bundelkhand region,'' she said.

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