MAC: Mines and Communities

Indian workers strike, as Rio Tinto envisages multi-billion profits from new mine

Published by MAC on 2008-07-09

One killed, six hurt as diamond workers protest in India's Gujarat

South Asia News

6th July 2008

New Delhi - One person died and six were injured during protests by diamond unit workers demanding a wage hike in India's western Gujarat state, police said Sunday.

More than 200,000 workers employed at diamond cutting and polishing units in the western Indian state have been on an indefinite strike since Saturday demanding a wage hike.

Hundreds of diamond workers threw stones and set some vehicles on fire in the Kumbawadi area of Bhavnagar town, about 230 km south of Gujarat's principal city Ahmedabad, an official at the city's police control room said.

There are several diamond polishing units located in the area and a private security guard employed at one of these units opened fire on the mob, killing one person and injuring six. The guard was detained and the mob dispersed, the official said.

India handles almost 90 per cent (according to pieces) of the world's diamond cutting and polishing business with the trade being controlled by Gujaratis based in Antwerp.

India imports rough diamonds and then exports them after cutting and polishing. The industry was estimated to have earned revenues of about 4.2 billion dollars in the financial year 2007-2008.

Most of India's 25,000 processing units are located in Gujarat. They employ about 700,000 skilled and unskilled workers.

The workers, who earn about 100-200 rupees (about 2.3 to 4.6 dollars) a day, are demanding a hike of at least 50 per cent given the rising costs of living.

On Friday diamond business associations in Surat, the hub of the industry, reached a settlement with local workers' unions on a wage hike of 20 per cent. This spurred workers in Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad and Amreli districts to go on an indefinite flash strike from Saturday.

Striking workers tried to force shops to put down their shutters and pelted stones in Ahmedabad on Saturday. Eight people were detained by the police.

Workers also held protest marches in the Rajkot, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts. The protests continued on Sunday, but violence was reported only in Bhavnagar.

Rio Tinto 'excited' about new India diamond mine

National Jeweler

26th June 2008

London-Mining company Rio Tinto, best known for pink and brown diamonds from Australia, has taken the initial step in developing India's first significant diamond mine.

London-based Rio Tinto announced this week that it has lodged mining lease applications for its Bunder diamond project in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh, India.

In addition, the company announced the exploration target for diamond mineralization at the Bunder project of 40 million-70 million tons at a grade of about 0.3 carats to 0.7 carats per ton. The grades for the Bunder project are about three times greater than the grade of the Panna mine, India's only other hard-rock diamond mine, according to Rio Tinto.

The original discovery on this site was made during a regional exploration mission in 2002. In September 2006, a prospecting license was issued, allowing exploration to continue.

Rio Tinto then began an order of magnitude study to evaluate the site's economic viability. The results of this are expected at the conclusion of the third quarter of 2008.

Nik Senapati, managing director of Rio Tinto in India, said the company has spent more than $25 million over the last six years on diamond exploration and evaluation in India, and the company is excited about the prospects for the Bunder project.

"Diamonds are a significant part of the history of India and an important product for Rio Tinto," he said in a media release. "The application for mining leases is confirmation of our commitment to both mining in India and the global diamond industry."

Rio Tinto has diamond-exploration activities on six continents, including projects in Canada, India, southern and western Africa, Brazil, Russia an Australia.

The company produces about 16 percent of the world's rough diamonds by volume, and 8 percent by value from Australia's Argyle mine, the Diavik mine in Canada and the Murowa mine in Africa.


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