National Mineral Policy has failed to address primary concerns of people impacted by mining

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Representation to Dr K Rajeshwara Rao, Chairman, Committee to Review the National Mineral Policy 2008, Government of India, Ministry of Mines by Rebbapragada Ravi, chairperson, and Ashok Shrimali, secretary-general, mines, minerals & People  (mm&P):

This written representation is in relation to the committee formed to review the National Mineral Policy.

A look at the Ministry of Mines Order dated 14th August gives a feeling of being an exclusionary process, where, out of the 29 members 25 represent the government in different administrative capacities & different states and 4 represent the mining lobbies predominated by private mining companies. Unfortunately, there is no representation of the communities or civil society that is affected by mining.

Historically, mining was foreseen to promote growth and development of the region, state and nation. It’s contentious though when one weighs the benefits against the costs. Costs, not merely in terms of financial but also in terms of ecological, social and cultural identity. In India, the mineral wealth is concentrated in tribal hinterland. These regions have been accorded special status vis-à-vis fifth schedule and sixth schedule (in the north east India) in the Constitution of India. These are also the regions that are most backward in terms of basic infrastructure and facilities.

Mining further pushes these communities to the threshold of total annihilation. In this context it would bode well if there is representation in the committee from the community or organizations working with affected communities. Especially when the changes could drastically impact the limited protection they enjoy from the constitution.

Secondly, with reference to the minutes of the first meeting of the Committee that was held on 28th of August 2017, it is observed that most of the members spoke about how the policy of 2008 failed though had been perceived to be good. There are fleeting references to sustainable mining and lack of synergy between the policy and statutory frameworks. But no reference to addressing the primary concerns of the people who would be impacted and the consultation process with them. This again does not augur well with the government’s agenda of inclusive development.

Apart from the primary concerns stated above, we would like to put forth few other concerns which we feel needs to be addressed –

  1. Illegal Mining – It has been reported during the recent Parliamentary session that during the period 2016-17 there were 96,089 cases of illegal mining for iron ore alone. This unprecedented number of illegal cases for a major mineral, one could easily imagine what would be the number of illegal mining for all other minerals. Unless stringent laws are passed and implemented it would continue to rise. Involvement of local community or panchayat and making them a stakeholder in resource management and income sharing could be an answer to reduce illegal mining.
  2. District Mineral Fund (DMF) – DMF was instituted in March 2015 and the procedures formulated. Each state was to then form their own DMF rules and the committee at district level for dispensation and utilization of funds. It’s been more than 2 years and most of the states have either not yet formulated the rules or the funds are not being utilized as per the guidelines i.e. preference to be given to improvement of directly affected communities.
  3. Children in Mining areas – Children are the most neglected section of the affected community. None of the laws or policies addresses their issue explicitly. It is always in convergence and is mentioned in passing.
  4. Inter-generational Equity Fund – Unlike other natural resources that are renewable, minerals are non-renewable and at current rate of extraction is fast depleting. As shared inheritance it’s imperative that equity is attached to the income from mining which would then eventually be used by our future generations. Following the Supreme court order in the case of Goa Foundation Vs Union of India and others where the court has directed formation of Permanent Fund for future generations and cap on mining in Goa to ensure the availability of minerals over several generations as well as to limit environmental damage; we request you to kindly consider this as an important point of review and hopefully implement it uniformly across the country.
  5. Implementation of Samata Judgment – The Supreme Court Judgment of 1997 was a weapon for the tribal communities across the 5th schedule regions in protecting their rights against alienation and marginalization. But unfortunately, subsequent governments and administration have undermined its implementation for the benefit of a few. We request you to kindly consider the implications of the judgment and make it mandatory as per policy to comply with the recommendations as stated in the judgment, be it in granting of lease or sharing of profit with the panchayat or the affected community thus safeguarding the rights of the tribals.
  6. Abandoned or Orphaned Mines – Though a mining plan includes mine closure and post mining reclamation plan, it is never implemented and is completely overlooked. These abandoned or orphaned mines become death traps to people inhabiting in its vicinity especially during monsoon season. It would bode well for the community if the policy reflects upon this issue and makes it binding for the mining company to implement mine closure plan and initiate reclamation activities.

With these few points we would request the committee to introduce representation from the civil society organisations or organisations that are working with mining affected communities. This would serve to acknowledge governments stand of inclusive growth as well as provide an opportunity to the marginalized sections to voice their concerns in the review itself for better resource sharing, management and income distribution. We would be happy if we could meet the committee in person and put forth our concerns and ideas for sustainable and pro development Mineral Policy.

About mm&P

mm&P (mines, minerals & People) is a growing alliance of individuals, institutions and communities who are concerned and affected by mining. The isolated struggles of different groups have led us to form broad national alliance for combating the destructive nature of mining and unequal distribution of income out of resource extraction. mm&P has its presence in 16 states across the country.

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