Even as the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has recommended the deletion of the reference to Western Ghats in the earlier report of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) in its report, the mining industry has said it is feasible to conduct mining in the eco-sensitive region.
The Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI), Southern Region, on Wednesday said Western Ghats is home to the high quality magnetite ore, and there are technologies available for exploiting the reserves. It has also offered help to the government to bring such technologies from abroad, and also experts for commercial exploitation of iron ore reserves in the Western Ghats.
The ICFRE had said there is a need to commission a feasibility study to bring in superior underground mining technology which is more environment-friendly in the Western Ghats to extract about 10 billion tonnes of magnetite ore. Of this, about 8 billion tonnes are in Karnataka.
In its report submitted to the Supreme Court on February 3, 2012, the CEC has recommended for the removal of ICFRE’s reference to the Western Ghats as it was beyond its terms of reference. “We believe that this can be worked on safely with minimal damage to the environment. Underground mines are being worked beneath Johannesburg in South Africa and Stockholm in Sweden. This is an option the government has to consider seriously. Expertise is available in Sweden and FIMI can assist in bringing in the technology,” D V Pichamuthu, director, FIMI-South, said.
Allaying fears that iron ore deposits in Karnataka would dry out in the next 15-20 years, he said, “This is a fear not founded on facts.” The only authentic source to obtain resources figures is the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) under the Ministry of Mines, Government of India. As per IBM, the resources in Karnataka have gone up from 1.68 billion tonnes in April 2005 to 2.16 billion tonnes as on April 2010. This has been calculated after considering that 200 million tonnes have been extracted during the period, he said. This has happened because of the exploration during this period and the key is to lay more emphasis on exploration, Basant Poddar, chairman, FIMI-South, said.
“The Supreme Court has stopped all iron ore mines in Karnataka. We understand that the CEC has now finished the survey of all mines and classified them into A, B and C categories. We are hopeful that at least the mines in A and B categories will be allowed to re-open,” Poddar said.
The forest bench of the Supreme Court is resuming hearing on the illegal mining case on February 10, and it is likely to pronounce judgement on the CEC report.
However, even if the court permits resumption of mining by Category A mines, it would at least six months for the ICFRE to prepare the rehabilitation and resettlement plan for each mine and the mining can start only after the R&R plan is in place, Poddar added.