MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Saranda surrendered to miners

Published by MAC on 2019-03-30
Source: Down to Earth

Tata up for the grab

MAC very recently published news of a survey into the dire poverty suffered, especially by young children, in the Singbhum district of Jharkhand [see: Inside India's worst constituency ].

Now, Delhi-based environmental watchdog Down to Earth exposes a cravenly pro-mining, pro-state, plan to jeopardise even those initial proposals which backed the indigenous inhabitants' tradtional livelihoods.

These are ones which might have saved some of the magisterial, very rich, Saranda forest, offering at least some hope to the Adivasi families critically dependant upon its resources.

It's hardly surprisingly that Tata Steel - already notorious for its cavalier disregard for sustainable development - is among those companies backing
the plan.

MoEF opens up mining in Jharkhand's Saranda, dilutes sustainable mining plan
New modifications in the MoEF’s plan include merging mining areas and
removal of the Impact Assessment clause as well as scrapping the role of
the forest department in creating the mining plan

By Ishan Kukreti

Down to earth

March 2019
On the request of the Jharkhand government, the Union Ministry of
Environment and Forest (MoEF) has modified its Management Plan for
Sustainable Mining (MPSM) for Singhbhum and Chaibasa in Jharkhand. These
regions fall within the largest sal (Shorea robusta) forest of Asia —

The MPSM was finalised by the MoEF in June last year. The plan, among
other things, created “no-mining” or “conservation” zones within the
Saranda forest and capped the annual mining in the Saranda-Chaibasa region
at 64 million tonnes. This was immediately followed by the state
government urging the MoEF to modify the plan on August 14 last year.

The meeting to decide on these modifications was held on February 4 this
year between the MoEF, Union Ministry of Mines, Union Ministry of Steel,
Union Ministry of Coal and the Jharkhand government.

Down to Earth has access to the minutes of these meetings.

A slew of modifications have been made in the MPSM by MoEF like merging
Zone I and II mining areas, removing of the Impact Assessment clause and
scrapping the role of the forest department in creating the mining plan.

The modification has also opened up mineral blocks in the no-mining areas
of Ankua and Chidia. In the MPSM, the allowing of the 13 mines in this
area was dependent on the government. However, MoEF has deleted this
clause to bring these under the provisions of the Mines and Minerals
(Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR).

Jharkhand had also asked the MoEF to delete the clause about the
conservation areas earmarked as there are no mining areas mentioned in the
MPSM. The rationale given by the state government for doing away with the
conservation areas was that it would hamper the supply of iron ore in the
future. To this, MoEF has recommended that it shall look into the
possibility of mining in these areas using latest technologies to cause
minimum destruction to the ecology.

The plan has divided the mining area into two zones – I and II. The idea
was to give clearances in Zone I first and only when the mines in this
zone are exhausted, the clearances for Zone II mines would be given. This
stipulation of the MPSM has been done away with.

Interestingly, Tata Steel Limited has requested MoEF for the diversion of
around 380 hectares of forest land belonging to Noamundi Iron ore mine,
falling in the Chaibasa South Forest Division. According to the state
government’s documents, the proposed area forms part of the Singhbhum
Elephant Reserve and around 22 hectares of the land fall under the
conservation zone of MPSM.

In 2014, the MoEF had stopped giving fresh mining clearances in the area
after the Shah Commission report found major violation of the MMDR by the
mining companies in the area. The MoEF had mandated that fresh lease would
only be given after the MPSM had been created.
MoEF officials could not be reached for comment.


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