MAC: Mines and Communities

India update

Published by MAC on 2007-09-07

India update

7 September 2007

For over a year, a ship containing toxic wastes has idled in a Gujarat port while legal wrangling continued over responsiblity for its break up and final disposal

Last week, the Indian Supreme court heard overwhelming evidence, not only that there was asbestos on the vessel, but also radioactive materials.

Finally, it seems the ship (ironically, it's called "Blue Lady") will now have to be towed back to Germany, the port of departure.

See previous mailing on this site:

Attacks by Maoist (aka Naxalite) guerillas are alleged to have caused the loss of 1. 6 million tonnes of iron ore production since 2006, at state-owned NMDC's Bailadila mines in Orissa..

Nonviolent protests by an all-party group in Andhra Pradesh against a proposed alumininum refinery, have been launched with a hunger strike. Howeer, it organisers state that failure to close the project will lead to a "blood bath."

While opposition grows to the opening up of new uranium deposits in Meghalaya and elswhere, a private Indian company claims to have been granted exclusive rights to explore for uranium in the African state of Niger.

What the company may not know is that mines operated by French-based Areva (formerly Cogema) in the country have of late been attacked by a Tuareg rebel group.

Blue Lady owners misled the Court & Ministry

Government Admits Radioactive Material on Blue Lady


5th September 2007

New Delhi: Glaring documentary evidence was presented in the Supreme Court today that shows how Blue Lady (S S Norway) owners have misled the Court and all the Government agencies. It is becoming clearer that the Blue Lady can be sent back.

Gopal Subramanium, Additional Solicitor General submitted to the Supreme Court that there is radioactive material on the ship named Blue Lady besides asbestos, PCBs, Ballast Water, Incineration ash, lead acid batteries.

Mukul Rohatagi appearing on behalf of Sanjay Mehta, Managing Director, Priya Blue Industries Private Ltd in the Supreme Court argued that Dismantling Plan of the Priya Blue was prepared after the submission of the recommendations of Technical Experts Committee (TEC) on Management of Hazardous Wastes relating to Ship breaking headed by Environment Secretary. The bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia heard the matter. This committee came into being as result of an order of R K Vaish, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests issued an order dated 24th March, 2006 for the "Constitution of a Committee of Technical Experts with respect to the directions of this Hon'ble Court dated 17.2.2006 in the matter of W.P. (C) No. 657 of 1995 on Management of Hazardous Wastes".

The new documents show that TEC report and GEPIL report cannot be relied upon. Although Tom Haugan, the former Project Manager of the ship has provided information that there are radioactive material at 5500 places in the fire detection system, the document, which Additional Solicitor General produced today, reads as follows: "We could collect 12 nos of such smoke detectors and handed over to the breaker for keeping safely and securely pending their disposal at BARC through AERB." It further admits, "We could not find any instructions for emergency response related with radioactive material. Also we could find any radioactive warning symbol in any part of the ship except in the ionization-based smoke detectors. In addition to this, the inventory of the hazardous material issued by the Mater of the ship does not mention anything about the radioactive material."

Counsel for the petitioner, Sanjay Parikh emphasized that prior decontamination of the ship is possible only in the country of export as recommended by the court's High Power Committee (HPC) on Hazardous Wastes and not when the ship starts sailing. No decontamination is possible in the high seas, all pre-cleaning must be done in the country of import. Since this has not been done, the case Blue Lady therefore, becomes a clear case of dumping of hazardous wastes, which the Supreme Court order dated 14th October 2003 prevented. It was submitted that in the interest of country and public health prior informed consent procedure and pre-cleaning that exists as part of Hazardous Waste Rules, 1989 created under Environment Protection Act 1986 including what should be done if it is a case of illegal traffic like Blue Lady must be complied with.

The bench sough to know whether India was signatory to Basel Convention. It was pointed out that India has ratified Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and its companion treaties like Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and Stockholm Convention on POPs. It was also pointed out that Prior Informed Consent procedure is a part of global environmental jurisprudence where a developing country is entitled to know what material is being sent by the developed country and whether for environment and other concerns is ready to accept it.

On the issue of Dismantling Plan, it was pointed out that the approval Ministry of Environment and Forests, TEC, Inspection Committee of Gujarat Pollution Control Board, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) prior to verification of the radioactive substances and Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs) is a gravely wrong.

Despite the fact that Dr. Virendra Misra, ITRC, Lucknow had put his suggestion that "Presence of radioactive materials should be ascertained well in advance. Though it is mentioned in the report that radioactive material is not available, in my opinion there is possibility of the presence of radioactive materials due to existence of liquid level indicators and smoke detectors on the ship."

But Priya Blue submitted that its consultant "the GEPIL report confirms the absence of radioactive material on board Blue Lady. " It noteworthy that the services of the very same organization, GEPIL (Gujarat Enviro Protection and Infrastructure Ltd), has been engaged by the Gujarat Maritime Board (gmb) for the purpose of "operating and maintaining Common Hazardous waste TSDF on behalf of Gujarat Maritime Board since October 2005". There is a manifest conflict of interest.

Demanding that the ship must be sent back as suggested by Prof. MGK Menon, "it is a case of environmental racism being practiced by countries like Germany and multinationals like Star Cruise Ltd, the original owner of Blue Lady," said Madhumitta Dutta of Corporate Accoutability Desk. Prof. Menon is the Chairman of the HPC who wrote to the Chief Justice seeking recall of the ship by the exporting country as per the court order.

It is noteworthy that all ships, which come for dismantling, have radioactive material. No one knows as to how many workers till date have suffered radioactive exposure besides asbestos and PCBs due to shipbreaking. It further vindicates what Dr Vidyut Joshi, former Vice-Chancellor, Bhavnagar University who has co-authored a UNESCO report for "Industrial safety concerns in the ship breaking industry/Alang-India" has said. He said, "Ship-breaking requires industrial management, which GMB does not have. Ship-breaking is not a port activity and Maritime Board officials are trained not meant for such industrial activity ship-breaking. If GMB should have a role it must be restructured for the same and there should be a separate Alang Authority."

For Details: Indian Platform Ship-breaking, 9818089660, 09444390240

Note: Hazardous Waste Rules defines hazardous waste. Some Basel Hazardous Wastes found on Ships include: Waste mineral oils, Oil sludge, Hydraulic systems, heavy fuel oil, lube oil, Waste oils/water mixtures and emulsions Ballast water, Waste containing PCBs, PCTs, PCNs, PBBs, Light fitting capacitors, in paints, etc, Waste from production, formulation and use of inks, paints, lacquers, varnish etc, All over as coatings Wastes containing mercury or mercury compounds, Fluorescent light fittings, Lead Acid Batteries, Batteries, Waste Asbestos, Heat insulation, fire retardant in structural material.

LATE NEWS: SC empowers govt to send back contaminated ships

Nitin Sethi, Times of India, 8 Sep 2007

NEW DELHI: In an order that is already taking on political hues, the SC has empowered the government to send back any contaminated ship that comes to India for breaking at Alang or any other ship-breaking yard in the country.

The Indian ship-breaking industry has an annual turnover of more than Rs 2,000 crore. Reacting sharply to the order, the ship-breaking association in Gujarat has reportedly threatened to approach the BJP state government against the order which the UPA had pursued in Delhi.

The order, leaving the controversial Blue Lady ship out of its purview, has put up other strict guidelines too, picking them up from an earlier report of the SC appointed committee headed by MGK Menon.

The court has ordered that the government formulate a comprehensive code and immediately incorporate these recommendations until the laws are modified and aligned with the court orders.

The continuation and expansion of Alang and other ship-breaking yards across the country shall be permitted, subject to the compliance to these directions by the ship-breakers.

The order leaves little space for the authorities to allow ship-breaking even if ship owners do not provide details of contaminants on board.

Going a step further, the court has reiterated that India should participate in relevant international conventions with the clear mandate for decontamination of ships for hazardous substances such as asbestos, waste oil, and PCBS prior to export to India for breaking.

Until further orders, the court has asked the state pollution control boards, customs department, the National Institute of Occupational Health and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board to oversee the entire arrangement at the shipyards.

Guerrilla attacks cost NMDC $50 million in lost production

Metal Bulletin, Mumbai

3rd September 2007

Attacks on National Mineral Development Corp's Bailadila mines by Maoist guerrillas resulted in a loss of production of more than 1.6 million tonnes during 2006 and 2007, the company said. Chairman Ramesh Kumar said: “There have been serious setbacks in the Bailadila complex. The attacks disrupted the production in the Bailadila sector. The resultant loss in production was to the tune of 850,000 tonnes in the year ended March 31 2007 and about 750,000 tonnes in the current financial year”.

He went on to highlight a major setback to production caused by damage to a conveyor in Bailadila deposits 10 and 11A in October 2006, resulting in no production from October 30 to December 23.

The value of lost production was put at Rs2.05 billion ($50.1 million) over two years.

The Bailadila mines in Chhattisgarh state have huge deposits of iron ore but the region is dominated by Maoists opposed to development in the area. Mining rights in Bailadila have been granted to Essar Steel and Tata Steel, who are now proceeding with two greenfield steel plants.

They have been given mining leases to mine around 200 million tonnes of iron ore each, and Maoists have already said they will oppose the leases and associated mining activity.

Copyright © Metal Bulletin Ltd.

Refinery: all-party team puts State on notice

Staff Reporter, The Hindu

31st August 2007

* Launches indefinite relay hunger strike
* Threatens of bloodbath, if the deal is not scraped
* The project costs Rs. 9,000 crores

VISAKHAPATNAM: The all-party team which launched an indefinite hunger strike at Makavaripalem, about 70 km. from here on Thursday, served an ultimatum to the State Government to either scrap the memorandum of understanding signed with Ras Al-Khaimah (RAK) for setting up an aluminium refinery and smelter or face bloodbath.

Peeved at the reported statement of Joint Collector Veerabrahmaiah on Wednesday that they would go ahead with land acquisition, leaders belonging to various parties declared that come what may, they would not allow a single inch to be acquired for the project being set up by RAK, a member of UAE, at a cost of Rs.9,000 crores.

MLAs Ch. Ayyanna Patrudu (TDP) and G. Demudu (CPI) , CPI (M) district secretary Ch. Narsinga Rao, Congress leader D.V.S. Raju, BJP leader Somnath Srinivas, local ZPTC R. Seshu Kumar and Samata activist Srinivas took part.

Mr. Patrudu alleged that the Congress Government was keen on acquiring the land after putting an unofficial ban on registrations and wondered how authorities would acquire the land when local people were totally against it.

No clearance obtained

The RAF Government which signed the MoU early this year, has sought 2,600 acres in Makavaripalem mandal for establishing a refinery with an initial capacity of one million tonnes. It wanted to receive bauxite ore from the nearby agency area through a pipeline.

Mr. Demudu said the Government was in a hurry to acquire land for the project notwithstanding the fact that for RAF's refinery in Makavaripalem as well as Jindal's in S.Kota mandal, no clearances had been obtained. He said the Government was trying to circumvent the apex court order on enforcing Section 1 of 70, Tribal Land Transfer (prevention) Act in the scheduled areas.

Srinivas of Samata said the Supreme Court had clearly stated that only the Government or its instrumentalities or the tribals themselves by forming into a cooperative society could explore the mineral resources in the scheduled areas. However, now there was an attempt to negate it by digging bauxite by AP Mineral Development Corporation with indirect support from Jindal and RAK, he pointed out.

Indian firm acquires uranium mining rights in Niger

Pallava Bagla, The Hindu

19th August 2007

New Delhi: Even as law makers in India fight over the merits of the India-United States civilian nuclear deal, which now threatens to destabilise the Manmohan Singh Government, a bold and courageous move by an Indian company promises access to literally unlimited amounts of uranium, yes the very same mineral over which India is spending sleepless nights.

At a time when the country is trying to procure uranium at any cost an Indian company has broken new ground by acquiring exclusive rights for exploration and mining of uranium in the west African country of Niger. This is the first time any Indian has won a contract for uranium exploration and mining anywhere in the world. Natural uranium is much sought after for use as fuel in nuclear reactors. India is not well endowed with uranium ore and it is this short supply that is becoming the stumbling block for the rapid expansion of nuclear power in India.

Taurian Resources Private Limited, Mumbai, a Rs. 300-crore company, has recently won a contract which gives it exclusive rights over 3000 sq. km. of the Sahara Desert known to be rich in deposits of uranium. According to estimates of the Managing Director of the company, Sachin Bajla, ” against huge odds, Taurian won a permit to search for uranium in the Arlit region of Niger for an undisclosed amount. Mr. Bajla says till he relinquishes nobody can take away this area earmarked exclusively for his company. He received the permit from Mohamed Abdoulahi, Minister of Mines and Energy for Niger, and also had an audience with Mamadou Tandja, President of Niger.

Bold venture: Kakodkar

Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission “welcomed” the development but said that as of now the Government had little role to play as it was a “bold forward looking private venture.”

Interestingly, Niger is not a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the 45-member nation that controls all nuclear-related commerce, and hence it should be easy for India to access the uranium once the mines become operational — this will take several years. There is also the possibility that the ground may not be that rich in uranium as is being envisaged. Today, Niger is the fifth largest supplier of uranium in the world — the refined form of this atomic element is also called “yellow cake.” Government support sought

Uranium is the largest export item for Niger. Ironically, despite such a mineral deposit, Niger is still a very poor country as it ranks right at the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index. The French company Areva SA has a huge presence in Niger, where the French giant has built a whole township in the desert and mines uranium from at least 600 metres below the ground. Niger exports about 3500 tonnes of uranium, mostly to France.

On Friday, Australia, the largest supplier of uranium in the world, expressed its willingness to meet India’s needs, but not without strings attached. Mr. Bajla says, “I would be happy to meet India’s uranium requirement if the Government so desires.” He is also looking for Government support for his huge venture, having written about this to the Prime Minister.

Huge investment needed

Mr. Bajla says that to fully exploit the potential, an investment of at least $6-7 billion will be required. He hopes to raise money from the international market by listing his company on the London Stock Exchange. If uranium is indeed found by Taurian, the Government of Niger will also hold part rights over the sale of the mineral.

He says that as the region is very barren a whole new township will have to be created. In return for the permit, Mr. Bajla says he has promised the Government of Niger that his company will green one million hectares of land using the plant jatropha, a known source for biofuels. The Arlit region, where Taurian has secured its rights, is known for its unending sectarian conflict, but Mr. Bajla hopes to win the hearts and minds of the locals through appropriate social development of the region.

The Taurian group was set up a decade ago and has iron ore mines in Jharkhand and Orissa and a big engineering unit in Roorkee.


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