India UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-02-18
18th February 2006
Undeterred by international condemnation of last month's state-sponsored killings of tribal opponents of its Kalinganagar steel plant, Tata plans to proceed with construction of this project and another two plants in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
India's largest bauxite-alumininum producer, NALCO, is also facing protests from villagers inadequately compensated and rehabilitated after removal from their land.
Threats to expand mining of the huge Gandhamardhan iron ore tracts in Orissa are meeting renewed opposition. From Adivasis (tribal communities).
And farmers from the "holiday" state of Goa, incensed at pollution caused by stone crushing units, have killed a miner.
Yet - even as such grass-roots movements erupt all over the country - the central government plans to launch a new mining policy which will open-up more rural areas to both domestic and foreign companies.
Calls by the national organisation, mines, minerals and People (mmP) and other NGOs, for a moratorium on all greenfield minerals projects, have so far fallen on deafened ears.
Tata initial work by year-end - Steel plant at Tontoposhi
by The Telegraph (Calcutta), Jamshedpur
18th February 2006
Tata Steel will begin construction of its proposed 12-million-tonne steel plant at Tontoposhi by the end of this year.
"We are optimistic of starting the initial work for the construction of the plant at Tontoposhi by December. But prior to it, we will ensure that all the stakeholders are fully satisfied," said B. Muthuraman, managing director of Tata Steel.
The company had signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government for this greenfield project.
Muthuraman said the company is also hopeful of starting the process of land acquisition for its 5-million-tonne plant at Chhattisgarh.
"In fact, we had proposed to the Jharkhand government that we would like the rehabilitation package, which we propose for those displaced from Tontoposhi, to be a model for the state so as to make the process of industrialisation more conducive in the state. We will ensure that all those displaced get some alternative means of livelihood. In cases, where they are not skilled, we will train them up and absorb them," he said.
He also expressed confidence that its 6-million-tonne steel plant at Kalinga Nagar in Orissa would also be executed soon. Questions were raised on the future of the project after an uprising by villagers there and a subsequent police firing, which left 12 tribals dead. "The plot of land in fact was acquired by the Orissa government after compensating the people there quite sometime ago. We have assured of training these people up and later absorbing them suitably," he said.
Looking back at 2005, Muthuraman said that it was an exceptional year for the steel major not only in terms of acquisitions but also that all its plants have been working to more than their full capacity. "From March to December, steel prices have fallen by nearly Rs 6,000 but this is not going to affect our profits in any way this year. In fact, our profits in the past nine months have been more than what we earned during the similar period in the last financial year.," he said.
On its projects abroad, Muthuraman exuded confidence of all of them progressing ahead smoothly and added that the company would soon be acquiring another coal block in Australia soon. "This will help us in not only keeping our costs minimum but in ensuring supply. In fact, we have been able to reduce the ash content in coal procured from West Bokaro to just about 13 per cent this January," he said.
On the company's centenary year in 2007, Muthuraman said besides a film and a book that are being made for the occasion, the company plans to hand over a gift to the entire state. He, however, refrained himself from spelling it out as to what it would be.
Nalco appeals to people's body to call off stir
by Statesman News Service, ANGUL,
15th February 2006
Nalco has made a fervent appeal to Nalco Kshatigrasta Praja Sangh to desist from its proposed agitation starting tomorrow against the two plants here as it had done whatever was necessary to rehabilitate families which had lost land.
Till date, Nalco has absorbed 1,094 of a total of 1,530 substantially affected persons (SAPs) into the company as part of its rehabilitation programme.
About two-third of its manpower consists of land oustees.
"The agitation that is aimed at stalling operations of smelter and power plants will result in immense losses to the state and nation, and it will take a minimum one year to make good the losses suffered from the closure of either of these plants," said the executive director of the smelter and power plant, Uma Ballav Patnaik, in a statement.
On their demand to absorb the remaining 436 SAPs into Nalco, Mr Patnaik clarified that it was not possible for the company to take in those persons who were not technically qualified.
He added that Nalco, in coordination with the state government, has offered four rehabilitation packages for the 436 SAPs.
SAPs holding ITI certificates, diploma and graduation degrees will be offered employment after undergoing a one-year Nalco-funded intensive skill upgradation training.
Matriculates will be sent for ITI training, the cost of which would be met by the company and would be provided jobs on completion of training.
Non-matriculates will be provided coaching so that they can clear their matriculation and will be absorbed into the company after completing the ITI course sponsored by Nalco.
The remaining SAPs will be given compensations, he said.
Mr Patnaik asked Prajasangh to call off its stir as the rehabilitation package announced by the company was magnanimous.
ADIVASIS OF BANSAPAL PROTEST AGAINST EXPANSION OF MINING – Public hearing disrupted and cancelled
PRESS NOTE from Keonjhar Suraksha Parishad
15th February 2006
Residents of Bansapal block, Keonhjar, yesterday fiercely voiced their opposition to the expansion of Putulipani iron ore mines by Gandhamardhan Sponge Iron limited, a private company operating in the area for more than 35 years.
At the Environment clearance public hearing, conducted for this on 15th February 2006 at Kumundi village Lakshmi, an adivasi woman, resident of the village pointed out that the Environment Impact Assessment report submitted by the company to the Regional Pollution Control Board had faulty and misleading data.
This was followed by the supporters of the company and anti-social elements trying to disrupt the hearing and physically stopping people from expressing their views and objections. Fearing violence and disruption of law and order the Pollution Control Board and District Rural Development Officer, chairing the panel were forced to cancel the hearing.
"We have seen the report for its statements on the impacts of this project on the flora and fauna. First of all the details of flora and fauna, existing in the area are very inadequate. The Putulipani mines are located in the Gandhamardhan hill ranges of the Bansapal block, which is an area that has a wide variety of wildlife and faunal and floral diversity. This has not been reported" Lakshmi Munda said.
Before her, some other residents in their testimonies pointed out that, in the last 45 years of its operations in the area, this company had made no contribution to the social development of the area. "The report states that various health, educational, recreational and infrastructure facilities will be provided by the company for villages in the area. We see this as a false promise and lip service only to obtain easy clearance from the government." Said one of the young tribal activists.
People in their testimonies talked about the increasing iron ore mining activity in the region and its impacts on drinking water sources. The petition submitted by a local people's organization states: "Almost nine streams were flowing in the area before the mining activity. At present there is only one left. The mines have severely contaminated drinking water sources." The petition also demanded to know if the company had acquired a forest clearance from the MoEF for the forestland that it is mining.
"The money contributed by these companies is used for the beautification of the Keonjhar town and the Collectorate office. Our health and education are not the priority for the government". This point was raised by one of the villagers.
This was not the first time that the people of Bansapal block in the district have raised their voices against indiscriminate mining. On 31st October a public hearing for the environment clearance to Orissa Sponge Iron Limited, one of the mining companies coming up in the area, met with huge protests from the locals. A group of 70 people from Bansapal also demonstrated outside the office of the State Pollution control Board on the 7 th of November 2005 to draw attention to the disastrous consequences of iron-ore mining for the Gandhamardhan hills and its people.
Keonjhar is a part of the iron ore belt of the country with more than 100 mines operational. Suspended Particulate Matter is the main pollutant in the iron-ore belt of Keonjhar. Respiratory diseases and problems like TB, skin ecsema are becoming increasingly commonplace among the local population. Accidents as a result of increasing truck movements are becoming frequent.
Local groups have been demanding that a study of the impacts of air pollutants on the health of the villages in the area be conducted immediately before setting up or expansion of any mining activity.
However, the State government and the Pollution Control Board have taken no action on this so far. Almost ten mining companies, including POSCO, are vying for the iron ore in the Gandhamardhan hill range. A total area of about 2000 hectares in these forested hills will be affected by this. The area is under Schedule V of the constitution with more than 70% tribal population.
Rampant pollution and state inaction forces farmers to attack and kill a miner in Goa
Vasudha Sawaiker/CSE, Down to Earth (India)
5th February 2006
For more than ten years, residents of Saleli in Goa had complained to the government authorities against the menace of stone crushing units in their village. On December 28, 2005 their patience ran out: the enraged villagers attacked and killed Prithviraj Rane, who was on a visit to Saleli to survey a site for his new stone crushing unit. Hundred and nine Saleli residents, including six, who authorities claim are the 'main murder accused', are in police custody. The area simmers in discontent: women of the village are on dharna outside a temple demanding release of the incarcerated.
The same demand was also raised at a huge farmers' morcha in Valpoi, a small town near Saleli. Farmers from more than 60 villages in Goa participated in this protest march.
The protests seem to have stirred the government machinery into action. "On January 9, 2006, show cause notices were sent to owners of Saleli's 13 stone crushing units, and these have been temporarily shut down under the section 133 (removal of public nuisance) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 .
The owners have been asked to submit reports showing their units comply with pollution norms by January 23, 2006. Concerned state departments have also been asked to give their expert opinion by that date," says Arvind Bugade, deputy collector of Bicholim - the subdivision, where Saleli is located. He then hastens to add,"The situation is under control."
Located close to the Mahadei wildlife sanctuary, Saleli is primarily an agricultural village with a population of around 1,200.
Cashew, coconut and jackfruit are the main crops. But, says Rajendra Kerkar, an environmentalist from adjacent Keri village, "Saleli also has about 48 mines of meta basalt and meta granite, 13 stone crushers and two hot mix plants. And, these are a bane for the agriculturists. Mining has put paid to 15 of the 25 perennial streams in the village." Adds Radhike Ragobha, a 55-year old Saleli resident, "The dust from the stone mines has turned our fields grey; the cashew plantations cannot bear fruits because the plants remain perpetually shrouded in dust."
Ragobha was sitting on dharna, outside the village temple along with other women of Saleli, when this Down To Earth correspondent visited the village. She also complained, "Blasting in the mines would begin in early morning and carry on late at night. The noise pollution was driving us deaf." Added another villager who lives about 150 metre from one of the 13 stone crushing units, "Stone dust has begun telling on our health; my 18-month daughter suffers from constant cough and cold. And we don't even have a primary health care centre here. The nearest hospitals are in Valpoi or Sankhli, both about 15 km away." Grey dust hung over the house of this villager when this correspondent visited her. There has been no study to ascertain the impact of these 13 stone crushers on the health of Saleli's residents.
The blasting has also destroyed the village's drinking water and irrigation sources. Pointing towards one of the many blasting sites, Kishori Gawas, a Saleli resident, told this correspondent, "This used to be a perennial source of water, but stone crushing has put paid to it. Now, we have no option but to use groundwater. We have been complaining against this indiscriminate blasting for more than 10 years and have written to various departments. But the authorities have turned a deaf ear to our pleas." Another villager added that, "stones from the blasting site would often hit our cattle, injuring or even sometimes killing them. But the miners carried on with impunity." "We live amidst 13 stone crushers.
The government should kill all of us because both our land and water sources have been destroyed," this villager snaps.
At the heart of the problem is Goa's mokasodari system, a variant of the zamindari system. Mokasodars claim to be owners of certain villages and they treat the other inhabitants as tenants. Rane claims that his father, Krishnarao Rane, a Goan freedom, [fighter?] 'owned' Saleli. The area's residents also apprehend that Prithviraj has plans to sell off parts to the village to industrialists. But they are also determined to resist any such move. "We don't have any legal proof of ownership of our land but our ancestors have lived in Saleli much before Krishnarao Rane's family moved in here," says Ragobha.
The first pollution-related complaint from Saleli was filed way back in 1994 to the Paryavaran Vahini of Goa - a scheme was launched by the Union ministry of environment and forests in 1992-93 to create environmental awareness through people's participation.
The scheme also called on people to report illegal destruction of forests, and other acts of environmental degradation. But says Kerkar, a Paryavahan Vahini member, no action was taken on the complaint filed by Saleli's residents. The Vahini was finally wound up in 1997.
Then, on November 30, 2001, the villagers filed another complaint against Ramchandra Mule, a miner-based in Ponda town. Mule had cut down cashew trees to level land to set up a stone crushing unit in Saleli. Addressed to the deputy collector, the complaint claimed that another crusher would cause "irreparable loss both to their [villagers] health and income".
Since no action was taken, about 48 villagers filed yet another complaint on November 18, 2005 demanding either rehabilitation or closing down of all the 13 stone crushing units in Saleli. The complaint letter was sent to the chief minister, Goa State Pollution Control Board, deputy collector of Bicholim and Honda panchayat in which Saleli village falls. Admits Bugade, "We did receive the complaint and immediately sought the expert opinion from concerned government departments; January 23, 2006 was fixed as the date for hearing on this matter. But unfortunately the December 28 incident took place." He said that police investigation is on and as a precaution all the stone crushers have been shut down.
The case is now expected to come up for hearing on January 23. However, experts fear it may be just too little and too late.
New mining policy in three months: Minister
10th February 2006
Visakhapatnam: A new mining policy to streamline exports and meet the needs of the local would be launched within three months, Minister of State for Mines T Subbirami Reddy said today.
Expressing concern over the inability to properly exploit the natural resources that was available in the country, he said the existing mining policy needed amendments to benefit the country as a whole by making proper use of resources like bauxite, iron ore,gold and alumina.
Talking to newspersons here, Mr Reddy said the country stood fifth in the world in terms of mines resources, but was placed 100 in terms of generating revenue from the mines.
He said, though, priority would be given to Indian companies, Multinational companies would also be invited to explore the mines in our country, especially in Andhra Pradesh.
The Minister stressed the need to adapt modern technologies that are being used in Australia, UK, Russia, USA and Germany.
He said the objective of the new policy would be to explore maximum mine resources in the country and preference would be given to local industries in the utilisation of the resources.
Mr Reddy said development of the industrial sector would create more employment opportunities for the youth.
Explaining the necessity for each ministry to contribute for the growth of GDP, he said the MNCs should be given the task of surveying, investing and exploring the mineral resources on a sharing basis.
He said this would have retrospective effect on the generation of employment, alleviation of poverty and illiteracy.
He said industrial investment of Rs 10,000 crore would be brought to Visakhapatnam in three years.
He said he would try to get the captive iron ore mine for Visakhapatnam Steel Plant soon.
Bauxite mining in Araku valley in the district, which had raised serious ecological concerns, would be done in such a way that ecology and natural resources in the area were not affected, he added.
India hotbed of mining
Statesman News Service, BHUBANESWAR
9th February 2006
Liberalisation had thrown open vast opportunities and global players in the mining sector are looking forward to the states of India, particularly Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, but the developments at the ground-level have not taken place as yet, said Mr DK Sahni, president of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) here today.
Welcoming delegations to the two-day Indian Mining Summit being organised by the FIMI and Orissa government, Mr Sahni stressed on the importance of mining industry in the country's income growth. He also elaborated the purpose and importance of these summits, which bring together all the stake holders in the mining industry to a common platform for succeeding in their common goal of accelerating the mineral sector growth.
Inaugurating the summit, steel and mines minister Mr Padmanabha Behera, spoke on how Orissa depended on the mineral sector. He pleaded strongly for value-addition in the mining sector for improving the per capita income of the people of Orissa.
The minister said the government will soon formulate a transparent and investment-friendly mineral policy for achieving sustainable development. Significantly, the chief secretary, Dr Subhash Pani, felt that the mineral policy to be India-specific considering its specific conditions. Dr Pani suggested that the NPV (net present value) collected while giving permission to use the forest land for mining should be given to the concerned state so that the state can use that for forestation and environmental protection.
Mr Bhaskar Chatterjee, principal secretary, ministry of mines and steel thanked the delegations at the conclusion of the inaugural session. Union minister, Mr Sis Ram Ola and chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik, who were to address the summit did not turn up.
Govt's Balco exit plan might delay
by PTI, NEW DELHI
8th February 2006
The government's plan to sell residual shares in Bharat Aluminium Company (Balco) could get delayed, as it is not happy with the value pegged by its advisor for the stake.
"The valuation of government's 49 per cent stake in Balco is not up to its expectations. It might go for revaluation of the stake," sources said.
The government had appointed SBI Caps to value its residual stake in Balco and the advisors gave their report recently.
The value of the 49 per cent stake arrived at by advisors is just a fraction of what the government was expecting, sources added. Finance Minister P Chidambaram has already said that the government is expecting a good return from the sale of its residual stake in the aluminium company.
Even officials in the Finance Ministry had said that government might not sell its stake in Balco if the valuation is not to its liking.
The government had sold 51 per cent stake in Balco to Sterlite in March 2001 for Rs 551.50 crore.
The shareholders' agreement signed between the government and Sterlite at the time of disinvestment of Balco had said that Sterlite should not sell its stake in Balco for three years while the government could sell its remaining stake at any time, on which Sterlite would have first right of refusal.
The acquirer exercised the right when the government decided to exit Balco.
If the government decides to go for second round of valuation of its remaning stake in Balco, it could give rise to a whole range of issues, which can delay the process of disinvestment, sources said.