State-run National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) is bearing a loss of Rs 12 crore a day as operations at its Chhattisgarh projects have been stalled following a strike by tribals protesting against a mine allotted to the company.
Since Friday, thousands of tribals from the interior areas have camping in the sibling towns of Kirandul and Bacheli in Dantewada district where NMDC operates two of its three fully mechanised mines. The agitators are protesting proposed mining in Bailadila deposit no. 13, claiming it houses their deity.
NMDC, which was allotted Bailadila Deposit-13, formed a joint venture with Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC) in 2008 to develop and operate the mine. The new entity NCL (NMDC-CMDC) obtained environment clearance in 2015 to excavate 10 million tonnes (mt) of iron ore at peak capacity. Deposit-13 has a huge reserve of 326 mt of high-grade iron-ore.
Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL) qualified among the 10 companies in the race to win the global bid for developing and operating the mine. The company was appointed as the mining contractor in December 2018.
Pledging that they would not allow mining in the Deposit no.13, tribals had been staging dharna outside the check-post of NMDC mines that had blocked the entry of employees. Subsequently, production in both the projects had come to a halt. Though officials managed to run Bacheli operation with limited resources at its command but it was also stalled on Monday morning.
A tribal woman with her child at the dharna spot | Photo: Business Standard“Both the projects had been producing 75,000 tonnes of iron ore per day that had come to a complete halt from today morning,” company officials in Dantewada said. The NMDC had been incurring a loss of Rs 12 crore per day, they said, adding that as of now, the company had accounted a loss of Rs 35-40 crore.
The strike organised under the banner of Sanyukt Panchayat Samiti got a boost today as NMDC trade unions came out in support of tribals. The trade unions have been opposing the contract awarded to AEL claiming that it was part of privatization process. Congress MP from Bastar Deepak Baij had also extended his support by visiting the dharna spot.
The security agencies had been on high alert as it feared Maoists’ instigating the tribals and sending them from interior areas to join the agitation. Tribals from 200 villages with traditional weapon bow-arrow had reached the spot even with ration that security officials claimed was part of long-drawn strategy.
Dantewada police chief Abhishek Pallava had claimed that pamphlets and posters of Maoists asking villagers to join the protest and oppose mining had been recovered from the interior areas.