India UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-06-28
28th June 2006
The Indian Communist Party is threatening Orissa-wide protests in response to the governments' announcement that it intends to partially privatise the country's biggest aluminium producer.
Delhi-based Toxic Links claims that millions of Indians are now at risk from mercury poisoning.
An eloquent article in the Goa Herald says it would be hard to find anywhere in the world that has suffered more from its reliance on mining.
CPI cries CMP violation, threatens Statewide stir
28th June 2006
BHUBANESWAR: The Communist Party of India (CPI) has threatened to launch a Statewide agitation in July to highlight the anti-people decisions of the UPA Government at the Centre and the State Government.
In the second phase between August 17 and 24, all block offices would be gheraoed by the party activists.
A resolution to this effect was adopted at the State Council meeting of the party held here. Alleging the UPA Government at Centre of violating the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) by deciding to disinvest Nalco, the resolution warned that the people of the State would not tolerate this.
Allowing Posco to construct a minor port near Paradip will affect the interests of the State, it said, adding that this will pave the way for the Korean company to purchase the port later.
The resolution also criticised the leasing out of mines by the State Government to both foreign and Indian companies, alleging that the mineral resources of the State will be exhausted within the next 30 years because of this.
It demanded cancellation of all mining leases, formulation of resettlement and rehabilitation policy through an all-party meeting, change in the Posco project site, proper implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and revision of the BPL list.
Meanwhile, the Orissa Gana Parishad (OGP) has also threatened to launch a Statewide agitation in July protesting the disinvestment in Nalco.
In a statement, a party spokesman criticised the double standards adopted by the Congress. Congress had opposed a similar decision by the NDA Government.
Nalco workers strike in Orissa
Mining Journal News
23rd June 2006
Nalco produces 345,000 t/y of aluminium
Workers at National Aluminium Co`s (Nalco) Orissa smelter have gone on strike to protest government plans to sell a 10% stake in the company.Production at the facility, which produces 950 t/d of finished aluminium, stopped this morning, said company chairman C.R. Pradhan, in an interview with Bloomberg.
The facility employs 4,500 people although it was not clear how many were actually on strike. "Officers and executives are keeping the potline alive as it`s important to keep it running continuously," added Mr Pradhan.
The decision to strike follows a government announcement yesterday that it was looking to sell a 10% stake in the company. It currently holds 87.15% of Nalco. Nalco refines up to 1.57 Mt/y of alumina and produces 345,000 t/y of aluminium.
Millions of Indians at Risk From Mercury Poisioning
26th June 2006
NEW DELHI - Millions of people are at risk from the unregulated use of mercury in India, which has become the world's biggest consumer after China, an environmental group said on Friday.
Researchers say India is emerging as a hotspot for trade and unregulated internal distribution of the toxic metal, which has been outlawed in many developed nations because of its effects on humans and animals.
Mercury, sometimes called quicksilver, is found mainly mined in Europe. The heavy, silvery-white liquid metal is highly toxic, and exposure can damage the brain, nervous system and developing foetuses.
"We carried out a series of studies looking at various aspects of (the) mercury trade, usage and disposal in India and the findings are seriously worrying," Prashant Pastore of the Delhi-based Toxics Link told Reuters.
"We believe millions are at risk from poisoning and we need to regulate and monitor the use of mercury in India, just as other countries have done."
Mercury, commonly used in thermometers, batteries, fluorescent lamps, industrial chemicals and paints, is mainly exported from Spain, Britain, the United States, Russia, Netherlands and Finland. India imported about 2290 tonnes from 1996 to 2004, according to the study.
Researchers say the metal is a freely traded commodity as India has no controls over its trade or import and there is no monitoring of what amounts of mercury are coming into the country, who uses it and what it is used for.
Once in circulation in industry, hospitals, schools and homes, it is often not used properly or disposed of safely, mainly because there is a general lack of public awareness that the metal is a serious health risk, said researchers.
Mercury from hospital waste and broken fluorescent lamps is often discarded in garbage dumps, where children and rag-pickers use their bare hands to pick through the waste.
While industry is the biggest consumer of mercury, researchers say the metal is used traditionally for rituals and traditional medicines.
"The government needs to first recognise that mercury is toxic and implement strict laws to regulate the trade, usage and disposal of the metal," said Pastore. There was no immediate comment from the environment ministry.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
By V. M. de Malar, Goa Herald
24th June 2006
It happens right under our noses, but we barely understand what is involved or how high the stakes are. The numbers don't lie though; nearly 40 million tones of iron ore were hacked out from our precious hinterland last year – that's nearly half of the country's export total.
Given the steep hike in commodities prices in 2005 – largely fuelled by China's seemingly unstoppable growth – this trade adds up to well over two billion dollars in international sales generated by Goa alone. That's very big money and it piles up by the minute and hour; the mining companies earn close to forty crores each day in exports from Goa, and they're all looking to expand operations while the going remains good. Their profit margins virtually doubled last year, and there's a strong chance that prices will continue to rise all through the rest of the decade.
It's a classic supply and demand spiral. India is the world's third largest exporter of iron ore and particularly crucial in the supply chain to the neighboring Asian giant economies of China and Japan. Yet, India is now undergoing its own renaissance, complete with construction boom and manufacturing frenzy. All of this activity requires iron ore, and competition has led to steadily rising prices at home and abroad. The suppliers – in this case, Goa's mining license holders – are experiencing demand like never before, and rapidly escalating revenues. It's led to 24-hour loading of ships bound for the East, an unending line of waiting vessels on our horizon, and a ceaseless flow of barges down our rivers. Less visibly, of course, it has led to even hastier destruction of our environment and multiplication of all the health and social costs that follow.
Fittingly, as the mining exports scenario in India has dramatically changed in the last decade, the national government is planning a long-overdue and ambitious overhaul of the Mines and Minerals Act of 1957. It's part of the economic liberalization package initiated by Manmohan Singh, a planned dilution of the stringent "license raj". Earlier this week, government sources reported that the total revamp is intended to spur investment in this crucial sector, to massively lift output by limiting the amount of paperwork necessary to obtain a mining license. But any reworking of the outmoded act also offers broader opportunities than government and industry realizes –we should completely rethink and reconsider the costs and benefits of mining in a place like Goa. Because the status quo here is a very bad deal for everyone except the concession owners – the new regulatory framework should ensure that Goa gets much more from mining than it does now, the scam has gone on for far too long.
It would be hard to find a single place in the world that is worse served by the extraction industry than Goa. It is our environment that is wrecked, it is our health that suffers, it is our society that is torn up and it is our society that gets next to nothing out of the whole business. Billions of dollars, thousands of crores of rupees are amassed from our natural birthright, but almost every paisa of it disappears straight into the central government's coffers and into the ever-expanding pockets of the concession owners. The government talks mostly about tourism, we all tend to focus our attention to tourism, but what about mining?
Just yesterday, the newspapers quoted the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa's incoming president, Ralph de Souza proudly reporting that his industry contributes the most to the exchequer – 1500 crore rupees. But what about mining? What does it contribute?
The official panel appointed by the government, and headed by Anwarul Hoda of the Planning Commission will be reporting back with its recommendations, and appears intent on easing the license process. Ram Vilas Paswan, the Steel Minister, says that he's "very keen" to compdiletely overhaul the 1957 Act. That means it's time for the state government to assert itself on our behalf and ensure that the thoroughly rotten current system is not perpetuated. Goa must be fairly compensated for its mineral resources; we must not be cheated any longer.
Chhattisgarh Approves Jewelry Center Plan
By Jeff Miller (Rapaport)
28th June 2006
The government of hascleared the way for a gems and jewelry manufacturing center. Areas were identified for a new jewelry park to encompass some 70 acres of land at Navagaon Village to the tune of Rs 1.7 billion the government reports.
The new jewelry center will cater to diamond polishing and cutting factories. The government hopes to attract some of the eight diamond mining explorers in the region, including De Beers, to set up shop once the jewelry park is completed.
Local press reports that the government has invited potential investors from India to the region for discussions in coming weeks.