Green solution for mining troubles - GulfToday

Green solution for mining troubles

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Green solution for mining troubles

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to devise appropriate methods to re-grass mined-out areas.

The Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has issued a directive earlier this month making re-grassing of mined-out areas mandatory, while giving green clearances to mining projects. This came after a Supreme Court order on January 8, 2020.

A Supreme Court bench had asked the Centre to devise appropriate methods to ensure compliance of this condition. “We see no reason why the area which has been mined should not be restored so that grass and other vegetation including trees can grow in the mining area for the benefit of animals.

“We are of the view that this can be achieved by directing the Union of India to impose a condition in the mining lease and a similar condition in the environmental clearance and the mining plan to the effect that the mining lease holders shall, after ceasing mining operations, undertake re-grassing the mining area and any other area which may have been disturbed due to their mining activities and restore the land to a condition which is fit for growth of fodder, flora, fauna etc.,” the bench had added.

The court observed that the area which is mined results in complete elimination of grass which in turn denies fodder to the herbivores and the only solution is re-grassing such area. It affirmed that the re-grassing technology is available in India and so it sees no reason why such an area should not be restored to enable grass and other vegetation, including, trees to grow for the benefits of animals.

The apex court of India also asked the central government to devise appropriate methods for ensuring compliance of this condition after the mining activity is over at the cost of the mining leaseholders.

It noted, “This condition shall be in addition to those conditions which have already been imposed for achieving the same purpose under the mine closure plan. This condition shall not be imposed in derogation of any conditions which are already in force.”

In its order , the MoEFCC said, “The mining lease holder shall, after ceasing mining operations, undertake re-grassing the mining area, and any other areas which may have been disturbed due their mining activities and restore the land to a condition which is fit for growth of fodder, flora, fauna, etc.” The order has been sent to all state governments seeking compliance.

A Mongabay.com article points out that the order is of significance given the large area under mining across the country. India produces over 90 minerals but less than three percent of India’s gross domestic product comes from mining. To increase the country’s growth rate, there has been constant pressure to increase mining activities. In that case, if there is an increase in mining activities, the proper closure of mines once the activity has ended and reclamation of land – carried out by activities like landscaping, soil improvement and re-vegetation of the mined land – will gain more significance.

An audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had recently highlighted instances where Coal India Limited, the world’s single largest coal producer and its subsidiaries have not followed prescribed environmental safeguards.

The National Mineral Policy 2019, which guides mining activities in India, also talks about the importance of land reclamation once mining is complete. It stresses that once the reserves in mine are completely exhausted there is a need for scientific mine closure which will not only restore the ecology and regenerate biodiversity but also take into account the socio-economic aspects of such closure.

According to the 2019 Indian Metals and Mining Industry Report by the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), rise in infrastructure development and automotive production are driving growth in the metals and mining sector in India. India has vast mineral potential with mining leases granted for longer durations of 20 to 30 years. India produces 95 minerals– 4 fuel-related minerals, 10 metallic minerals, 23 non-metallic minerals, 3 atomic minerals and 55 minor minerals (including building and other minerals). It is expected to overtake Australia and the United States in early 2020 to take the position of the world’s second-largest coal producer.

In 2017, the country ranked as the world’s fifth-largest iron ore, fourth-largest coal, and third-largest chromium producer. The country also occupies leading positions in the production of bauxite, manganese ore, and barytes, as well as of talc, steatite and pyrophyllite. The country is self-sufficient in bauxite, chromite, graphite, iron ore, limestone and magnesite as well.

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